Pole Creek Fire produces bad air quality levels

Local News

UTAH COUNTY (News4Utah) – Itchy eyes, runny nose, and sore throat – all symptoms from the bad air quality in our state caused by the Pole Creek and Bald Mountain wildfires. Experts said they saw spikes to hazardous levels Monday in Southern Utah County.

“We have started to see some really high levels of fine, microscopic particulates in the air called PM2.5. They tend to stay in the air for a long time and that increases the chances of humans breathing it in,” said Jared Mendenhall, public information officer for Utah Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ). “Once we breathe these in, these particles are so small that they can bypass the natural filters in our nose in our throats and they get lodged in the lungs so this increases cases of asthma and bronchitis.”

Mendenhall said they see the worst air quality levels in the morning and he recommends those with respiratory conditions to stay indoors for as long as they can until it clears up in the afternoon.

Salem residents Robert and Barbara Palfreyman have felt the effects of the wildfire’s smoke. They run the Harvest Farm stand out on 400 South and Main Street in Spanish Fork, where they’re outside from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. every day.
“When we get here in the morning, you can smell it just in the air,” said Barbara Palfreyman. “I have lung problems and allergies so I’m using medication and some over-the-counter stuff just keep being here.”

“I have heart problems and it’s been really bad. I have a little bit of a sore throat, but it’s just miserable,” said Robert Palfreyman.

Utah DEQ recommend the following tips to protect your lungs from the smoke:

  • Avoid outdoor activity: Avoid strenuous outdoor activities such as running, cycling, or hiking during episodes of heavy smoke
  • Close doors and windows: Avoid letting smoke into your home. Run your air conditioner, but keep the fresh-air intake closed and filter clean. Central air conditioning is preferred to swamp coolers
  • Don’t rely on dust masks: Paper masks from hardware stores are designed to trap large particles, like dust. These won’t protect your lungs from the small particles found in smoke. Look for respirators marked NOISH with N95 P100. Respirators can stress your lungs, so check with a doctor before using one regularly
  • Keep indoor air clean: Reduce activities that increase indoor air pollution. Do not vacuum, it stirs up dust in your home. Do not smoke (or vape) tobacco in your home. Do not burn candles or fireplaces. Limit the use of gas stoves
  • Recirculate the air in your car: Use the ‘recirculating air’ setting in your car and change the air cabin filter

Mendenhall recommended keeping an eye out for those who are more at risk such as children, the elderly, and those with pre-existing conditions. Make sure you listen to your body and take a break when needed.

For the latest information on air quality, click here.

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