‘Sad to see’: Utah’s air quality among worst in the world due to smoke from western wildfires

Utah Air Quality

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – A thick layer of smoke has blanketed the Salt Lake Valley and many other regions of the state due to wildfires. It’s bringing with it a burning smell and unhealthy air quality.

The heavy smoke is coming from wildfires burning in California, Oregon, and Idaho, said Ashley Sumner, the spokesperson for the Utah Department of Environmental Quality.

“We have this weather pattern, this cold front, and wind that’s pushing it in large amounts into Utah,” she said.

What makes Friday’s poor air quality different than others, Sumner said, is the amount of smoke, as well as the high levels of ozone and particulate matter pollution.

“It’s really hard to see this poor air quality; it’s not just happening in Utah, it’s happening throughout the west and northwest,” she said.  

Salt Lake City’s air quality was the worst in the world as of Friday afternoon, according to IQ Air.

Intermountain Healthcare’s Dr. Denitza Blagev said the day’s poor air is unsafe for everyone to be in.

“Don’t think that because you’re not in a sensitive group that this air pollution won’t affect you, it will,” Dr. Blagev said.

Tourists visiting Utah told ABC4 News they were somewhat surprised by the amount of smoke.

“It’s definitely not something that I was used to. I’ve heard stories from other places, but I guess this might be my first time experiencing something like this, as far as air quality goes,” said Justin Xio, a tourist from Michigan.

“Yeah, it seems like a long way to travel,” said Chris Dunstan, who is traveling from Northern California with Veronica Fruiht.

“It’s sad to see. I think having experienced the fires, we’ve realized the devastation the fires create. So, seeing all the smoke, to me, brings up all that, that you realize this is forests burning and people’s homes burning,” Fruiht said.

Sumner said the smoky sky is anticipated to stick around until sometime next week. And in these types of conditions, ask people to drive less and stay indoors.

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