SALT LAKE CITY — Wildfire smoke is getting so bad around the valleys that the Utah Division of Air Quality is strongly cautioning people with existing heart or respiratory problems to avoid outdoor activity and physical exertion.
On top of the usual summertime problem with ozone, the area is experiencing a spike in PM2.5 levels, for fine particulate matter.
“Trust your body. If you are feeling the effects of the smoke, if you are feeling the irritation, you should really avoid heavy exertion outside and move your activities indoors, at least while the smoke is here the next few days,” said Bryce Bird, director of the Utah Division of Air Quality.”
More than 130 wildfires are burning in 11 Western states, with the raging blazes in California and Nevada sending massive plumes of smoke into the atmosphere where it gets carried on the prevailing winds from the west into Utah.
Local fires are also having an impact. The 15,000-acre Goring Fire broke out Friday in Box Elder County, closing I-84 for a time and contributing to northern Utah haze. The Goose Creek Fire in northwestern Utah has burned 132,220 and is 85 percent contained as of Monday.
The National Weather Service in Salt Lake City released a map of the country showing where surface smoke is causing an issue. Utah is one of seven states in the West seeing impacts.
An update on the smoke in Utah today- both local fires and fires across California and Nevada are still contributing to the poor air quality across the area. Here’s a model (HRRR) representation of the smoke across the country this morning. #utwx pic.twitter.com/CuK6G5HY80
— NWS Salt Lake City (@NWSSaltLakeCity) August 6, 2018
The agency said the smoke will build into Wednesday before potentially improving a bit Thursday and Friday as a high pressure system arrives. But “smoke will be slow to clear out,” the weather service warned on its website.
The smoke is obscuring mountain views and is unhealthy to breathe. Salt Lake, Davis, Weber, Utah, Tooele, Cache, Duchesne, Uintah and Iron counties all were reporting high levels of PM 2.5 on Monday afternoon.
Air quality regulators say residents can do their part to reduce pollution levels by driving less by carpooling, trip chaining or taking public transit.
According to the U.S. Forest Service, there are 134 wildfires burning on 1.5 million acres of land. An estimated 28,000 firefighters are deployed to fight the fires, made up of 558 crews, 1,907 engines and 186 helicopters.