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Unhealthy Air Quality Levels Due To Wildfire

Leslie Thatcher

As the winds shifted Thursday, smoke from the Dollar Ridge Fire blew into Summit County – and the P-M 2-point-5 levels jumped sky high into the unhealthy category. While the numbers have dropped into good or moderate - they continue to fluctuate and caught the attention of the Summit County Health Dept. KPCW’s Leslie Thatcher has more.

Summit County Environmental Health Director Phil Bondurant says the smoky skies came on quickly.

When I came in this morning, the levels were not anywhere near where they are. Then we had this shift in the pressure that changed the e=wind pattern and it kind of blew in, it seemed like, in a really quick time frame. So we had this turnaround from somewhat  I guess, a moderate level of air quality to this transition to where we’re, as you said,  100 plus parts per million. So we’ve found that it’s very quick changing and we’re hoping that we can get a weather shift because otherwise as that fire continues to burn up the hill in Strawberry , this is something we might be dealing with here for the next coming weeks if we can’t get a shift in weather or some type of weather storm to move through here.”

The Health Dept. issued an advisory Thursday to residents. The message, says Bondurant is simple. Listen to your body.

If you’re having trouble breathing outside or you’re eyes are burning or you’re getting a headache, avoid those summertime activities that we love to be outside for, We’re going to put out a press release that shares the same information - that talks about unhealthy air. We don’t want to cause undue alarm by any means but we also want to make sure people have the right information as to what’s going on.”

The county fired up its air quality monitors for PM2.5 – something that usually isn’t done during the summer. The readings says Bondurant are consistent with what you see during wildfires.

Residents can get real time air quality monitoring on line at purpleair.com. The information there is gathered from those who purchase an air quality monitoring system. It uses laser particle counters to provide real time measurement of air quality and require only a power outlet and Wi-Fi. The readings are uploaded to the cloud every 80 seconds where they are then displayed on the Purple air map. Bondurant says the readings can be trusted…

I’ve done a lot of research on the sensors themselves. There is a small fraction of air in the sense that they use a different type of accounting or measurement for the particulate matter. So we do see about a 5 to 10 % margin of error in those reports. But with that understanding knowing that there is some differentiation in the readings, I am confident in them. And if anything, it gives us an understanding that whether it reads 100 or 150, we’re still in that area that we want to make responsible decisions based on what our bodies are telling us.”

Summit County Environmental Health Director Phil Bondurant.

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