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Utah Air, Skies Clouded With Smoke From From Northern California Fires

Sean Higgins

Heavy smoke throughout Utah Friday was not due to any local fires, but from fires burning hundreds of miles away in Oregon and Northern California.


The saying goes where there’s smoke, there’s fire, but that was not the case Friday.


According to the Salt Lake City office of the National Weather Service, a cold front making its way across the west brought with it smoke from the wildfires currently burning in Oregon and Northern California.


The smoke is blanketing northern Utah. ABC Meteorologist Caesar Cornejo told KPCW the smoke is expected to be in the region until this weekend.


“Unfortunately, the cold front that has been looking to help clear us out actually creates more westerly flow, so we expect to see smoky skies tonight also,” Conrejo says. “Saturday will remain on the smoky side as we continue seeing more hanging around.”


According to IQAir, which tracks real-time air quality in major cities around the globe, Salt Lake City had the worst air quality in the world Friday, edging out Dubai in the United Arab Emirates and Kabul, Afghanistan.


The Utah Department of Environmental Quality classified Salt Lake and Utah Counties as red, or unhealthy. According to University of Utah Physician Dr. Robert Paine, exposure to such low air quality and inhalation of smoke particles can lead to increased rates of heart attacks, asthma, strokes, and pneumonia. He recommends staying indoors until the air clears. 


“My advice to patients and to families, first of all, people should avoid exposure outside while the air is like this,” he says. “It’s particularly important for older individuals, for kids and young people, and for those with pre-existing health conditions that would make them more vulnerable.”  


Thanks to windy conditions causing the smoke to blow in quickly Friday morning, the KPCW studio was inundated with calls from concerned members of the public worried there was a fire in the area. 


Park City Fire District Battalion Chief Patrick Harwood confirmed to KPCW  there are no fires currently burning locally, or even close to the Park City area.


According to Utah Fire Info, the closest active wildfire is the Plateau Fire, which burned approximately 5 acres in the Millcreek area of the Salt Lake Valley Thursday afternoon. That fire was quickly contained and is no longer spreading.


The Morgan Canyon Fire West of Tooele started on June 18th and has burned approximately 509 acres and is 90% contained. 


The fire district did respond to reports of flames at Deer Valley shortly after 11am Friday, but Battalion Chief Harwood said that was a false report.


Emergency services across the state are asking people to not call 911 to report a fire unless there are visible flames or a defined column of smoke.

Sean Higgins covers all things Park City and is the Saturday Weekend Edition host at KPCW. Sean spent the first five years of his journalism career covering World Cup skiing for Ski Racing Media here in Utah and served as Senior Editor until January 2020. As Senior Editor, he managed the day-to-day news section of skiracing.com, as well as produced and hosted Ski Racing’s weekly podcast. During his tenure with Ski Racing Media, he was also a field reporter for NBC Sports, covering events in Europe.