Out-of-state smoke sends haze to northern Utah skies

Posted at 7:09 PM, Jul 18, 2014
and last updated 2014-07-18 21:09:30-04

SALT LAKE CITY -- Utah’s beautiful skyline is considered one of the state’s many attractions, so when haze makes the mountains less visible, people notice.

Officialswith Utah’s Division of Air Quality, along with the National Weather Service, said the haze is imported from fires burning in the northwest.

Bryce Bird, Director of Utah’s Division of Air Quality, said the smoke isn’t coming from local sources.

“Unfortunately right now we’re seeing some of what we call visual impairment from smoke coming from fires out of state that is impacting that right now,” he said.

Visual impairment, that’s the way the experts at Utah’s Division of Air Quality describe the brown haze that’s hovering over northern Utah. Traveling all the way from wildfires burning in Idaho and Oregon, Bird said the pollution is more visual than harmful.

“Right now, what we’re seeing on the filters is that it’s not at levels of concern when we aren’t smelling the smoke or actively being affected by a nearby fire,” he said. “We are seeing some elevated concentrations but nothing to be concerned about at this point.”

The DAQ's website stated: "Smoke from wild fires could cause high concentrations of particulates in populated areas. If smoke becomes thick, persons with existing heart or respiratory ailments should reduce physical exertion and outdoor activity."

Click here for the current air quality forecast from the DAQ.

There are about 35 uncontained fires burning in the northwest right now. Nannette Hosenfeld is a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, and she said it was a shift in winds across the area that brought the smoke to our state.

“You can have a large fire, say in central Utah, and in northern Utah we’d never see the smoke from that if we had winds coming from the right direction, So winds pay a large role in transporting the smoke,” Hosenfeld said.

It may not be harmful to our physical health, but officials with the National Weather Service said the smoke can have a more obvious effect.

“As far as visibility, that’s when it really starts to matter, as far as aviation, transportation that’s when we start to worry about it,” Hosenfeld said.

A change in the wind is expected by Sunday, and with that shift we should see a change in Utah skies as the smoke clears out.