Cedar City and surrounding areas have experienced the onset of smoke from an alarming wildfire season across the western United States, resulting in varied levels of air quality.
Air quality in Cedar City has ranged from moderate (yellow) to borderline good (green) throughout the week.
St. George News editor Chris Reed reported that the smoke in the southern Utah area is primarily coming from the Virgin Mountain Fire 10 miles south of Mesquite, the Lime Fire 12 miles southwest of St. George and the fires burning across California.
The progression of the large wildfires across the nation will continue to pose a threat to air quality conditions, and while conditions are not hazardous in Cedar City, the impacts of the smoke may still be felt by sensitive groups.
An Associated Press article written by Katheryn Houghton released to St. George News detailed findings of a study on wildfire smoke’s long-term effects on health.
The study began three years ago in the mountain valley of Seeley Lake, Montana. The valley is narrow and surrounded by forests making it prone to heavy and trapped wildfire smoke.
Researchers were reported to have found declining lung capacity in participants just two years after the smoke from wildfires had cleared.
While smoke has an apparent impact while visibly detectable by triggering respiratory and cardiac problems, the article said that the research findings confirmed, “Wildfire haze can have consequences long after it’s gone.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention cautions to stay alert for wildfires around wilderness areas. Those at highest risk to be severely impacted by smoke are people with heart or lung disease, older adults and children.
The CDC recommendations for protecting against wildfire smoke include checking local air quality reports, consulting local visibility guides, keeping indoor air as clean as possible, avoiding activities that increase indoor pollution, following advice from a healthcare provider, evacuating from the path of a wildfire and protecting yourself when cleaning up after a fire.
Smoke forecasts and data can be tracked on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s smoke forecasting website.
According to the National Interagency Fire Center, 3.7 million acres have been burned by 76 active fires across 11 western states including: Arizona (2), California (21), Colorado (3), Idaho (14), Montana (8), Nevada (2), Oregon (12), South Dakota (1), Utah (3), Washington (7) and Wyoming (3).
The Utah Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands has reported over 1,300 wildfires in Utah this year that have burned just under 280,000 acres as of Sept. 20.
With an alarming 77% of those fires being caused by humans, it has set a new record for human-related wildfires in the state.
The Utah FFSL has cautioned the public that despite the approaching fall weather and cooler temperatures, fire danger is and will remain extremely high as fuel sources are dry and more susceptible to combustion.
Story by: Mikyla Bagley
Photos by: Mikyla Bagley