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Boulder County Public Health releases guidance regarding air quality, debris after Marshall Fire

Marshall Fire
Posted at 6:24 AM, Jan 17, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-17 08:24:34-05

SUPERIOR, Colo. — For many families who live near burn scars from the Marshall Fire, questions remain on the potential risks from all the debris and ash surrounding them.

“We do have concerns about our health after what's happened, so it's something I would take seriously,” said Scott Alter who was walking in a Superior park near his home over the weekend.

It's for that reason that the Boulder County Public Health released guidance on what people should consider when spending time outside near where the fire burned.

During windy days, it’s advised people limit outdoor activity, do not disturb ash or debris, and wear an N95 mask if you have to be outside.

For Alter, he’s already changed the path he normally walks on to avoid some burn areas.

“I used to walk near community park and up around there," he said. "I've noticed the odor there is particularly strong, unfortunately, so I’ve been finding other paths."

The health department has also set up air monitoring stations throughout the burn area to track potentially harmful particles in the air.

Dr. Maria Herrera, a pulmonary and critical care doctor at UCHealth, said since the fire burned through homes, cars, and a mix of other items, there’s potential for toxic particles to be present.

“From a pulmonary perspective, anything that is organic matter, like trees or grass, has toxic gasses similar to cigarette smoke so anything you inhale can cause either temporary or chronic lung problems,” Herrera said.

Still, it’s a balance for some who say being outdoors is beneficial.

“It is definitely a concern, but also, if it is windy, maybe I have to wear a mask, but it is also important for my mental health to go out because I cannot stay home all the time,” said Dong Hua, who lives near burn scars.

Boulder County Public Health said it’s reviewing all the data it collects in order to identify air quality-related respiratory illnesses and gain insight on its impacts.