SLC again ranks among world’s worst air quality thanks to more wildfire smoke

Utah Air Quality

Salt Lake City’s smoky sunset on Sunday, August 15. (Wesley Ruff/ABC4)

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – Utah’s capital city again ranks among the top cities with the worst air quality in the world as smoke from local and out-of-state fires cause smoky skies.

Salt Lake City topped out the list by IQAir in early August as smoke from the Dixie Fire in California infiltrated the Wasatch Front. Here is a before and after of Salt Lake City’s skyline on August 6 when a cold front brought in the smoke.

As of 7:50 a.m. Monday morning, Salt Lake City ranks second on IQAir’s ranking of worst air quality. The city comes in just behind Krasnoyarsk, Russia, and ahead of Lahore, Pakistan.

ABC4’s Chief Meteorologist Alana Brophy says some of the smoke impacting Utah on Monday, Aug. 16, is from wildfires burning in California – like the Dixie Fire – as well as fires burning locally. Most notably, the Parleys Canyon Fire continues to burn on the east side of Salt Lake City.

Those living in Utah’s northern counties will continue to face the chance of compromised air on Monday.

According to Brophy, elevated particulate matter will contribute to poorer air, with air deemed “unhealthy for sensitive groups” in Davis, Salt Lake, and Utah Counties. The rest of the state is facing moderate air quality. The smoke may cap some heating in Utah as well.

Amid the smoke-filled skies in Salt Lake City and throughout the state, here are some tips from the Salt Lake County Health Department to protect your health:

  1. Keep windows and doors closed: If you do not have air conditioning, the EPA recommends using fans instead of opening your windows to stay cool, or seek relief from the heat at a Salt Lake County Cool Zone.
  2. Limit use of a swamp cooler: Evaporative coolers bring air from outside to help cool the home; during a heat emergency, consider visiting a Cool Zone instead of using a swamp cooler, or limit its use as much as possible.
  3. Close the fresh air intake vent on window AC units: If your AC unit has a setting to recirculate air, use that option instead of outside “fresh” air. This also applies to central air systems: if there is a fresh air circulation option, try to turn this off temporarily.
  4. Avoid adding to the poor air quality by burning: Adding to the smoke by burning or cooking outside is ill-advised during wildfire events. Things like recreational fires or smoker grills can make the air worse for you and your neighbors.
  5. Consider buying an indoor air purifier: The EPA recommends using indoor air purifiers on the highest possible setting during fires. If you have a central air system with filtration, run the system’s fan on the highest possible setting; this moves the air particles around that have settled and helps get them out.
  6. Postpone house cleaning: Vacuuming can temporarily make your indoor air quality worse, by kicking up dust and small particles—unless your vacuum has HEPA filtration. So, consider postponing your house cleaning until the wildfire smoke passes.
  7. Avoid being too active: If there’s ever an excuse not to work-out strenuously—especially outdoors—it’s during a smoke event. Cardiovascular exercise increases the amount of air you take into your lungs, so consider having a rest day during significant wildfires.
  8. Use N95 masks: If air quality is visibly poor, use an N95 or KN95 mask when outdoors; with cases again surging, you’ll also help protect yourself from public COVID transmission.

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