Editor’s note: The story below has been updated to clarify that people with respiratory illnesses are advised to speak with a healthcare provider about wearing N95 masks and what they can do to stay safe. in Marshall Fire burn areas.

A recent study at the Marshall Fire burn site found that air quality in the area is similar to other urban areas that have not been affected by fires.

A preliminary analysis of outdoor air measurements was conducted by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in areas affected by the Marshall Fire. The study found that volatile organic compound (VOC) levels are comparable to regular urban air pollution, according to a press release from the Boulder County Public Health Department.

Flames fanned by high winds are seen in the 200 block of Vaquero Drive from the Marshall Fire in Boulder on December 30. (Matthew Jonas/staff photographer)

NOAA’s Chemical Sciences Laboratory sampled outdoor air in Louisville, Superior and affected areas of unincorporated Boulder County with its mobile van 11 to 14 days after the fire. Smoke from city fires that burn vehicles, homes and other modern structures can produce unhealthy gases as a result of burning materials, some of which include synthetic or manufactured building materials, furniture, rubber and automotive components, according to the press release.

NOAA does not plan additional outdoor air sampling for VOCs, the statement said. BCPH will take future measurements and issue warnings if the air quality changes.

While health officials expect VOC levels to decline in the coming weeks, air pollution could remain a concern for several months. Snow and moisture trap potentially harmful particles on the ground and out of the air. As the weather changes and temperatures rise, affected areas dry out, and as wind speeds increase, air quality can fluctuate, the statement said.

A fire off Cherryvale Road and Marshall Road burns over the ridge south of Boulder on December 30. (Matthew Jonas/Staff Photographer)

“To ensure affected communities are supported as conditions change, BCPH is developing a range of data collection, guidelines, recommendations, resource referrals and public communications and alert platforms. in real time in the coming weeks to keep residents informed about air quality. , water and soil quality among other environmental health concerns,” BCPH Deputy Director Dr. Lexi Nolen said in the press release.

Residents of the Marshall Fire area should also be aware of indoor air quality. Ashes and soot from the fire contain VOCs and other harmful contaminants, such as heavy metals, which can linger in homes if not properly disposed of.

While some weather websites and apps may report that the air quality is good or moderate, these sources may get their information from monitoring devices too far from affected areas to provide an accurate reading, the statement said.

People with respiratory illnesses are advised to speak with a healthcare provider about wearing an N95 mask and what they can do to stay safe in Marshall Fire burn areas. Poor air quality can cause some of the same symptoms as COVID-19. Anyone who feels sick should speak to a healthcare provider and get tested for COVID-19.

Below is a list of general BCPH advice for anyone near the burn area.

  • Have the heating, ventilation and air conditioning ducts cleaned by a professional and replace the filters as soon as they appear soiled.
  • Use the highest level of filtration recommended by the manufacturer.
  • Consider an activated carbon pre-filter to reduce odors.
  • Limit outdoor activities on windy days or wear N95 masks.
  • Do not move ashes or debris outdoors.
  • Keep windows and doors closed.
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