Smoke in Grand County likely from out-of-state wildfires, experts say

Hank Shell
The Indian Peaks and Continental Divide are obscured by smoke and haze from wildfires burning in Rocky Mountain National Park and near Canon City on Wednesday morning, July 2. Both wildfires have since been contained.
Byron Hetzler/ | Sky-Hi News

The smoky haze that has blanketed Grand County recently could be coming from wildfires burning in northern Canada or the western United States.

“The only fire activity in the U.S. is in the southwest and California,” said Lynn Barclay, a spokeswoman for the Northwest Colorado Fire Management Unit, in an email. “Here in Colorado there no wildfires of significant size as to put that volume of smoke in the air.”

Images from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Fire Detection Program show a huge tail of smoke downward from fires in the Northwest Territories and parts of Alberta and Saskatchewan through Montana and Wyoming to Northern Colorado before curling back up toward the Great Lakes region. The analysis shows “moderately dense” smoke through parts of Northern Colorado and into Kansas.

Barclay said other atmospheric conditions could be exacerbating the smoke.

“There is also a little front that came in yesterday and sometimes, if there’s more humidity in the air, that can add the haze is well,” Barclay said. “So it could be a combination of factors.”

However, Mike Baker, a forecaster with NOAA in Boulder, said he thinks the source of the smoke is more localized.

“The way the circulation is out there with southwest flow across California and Nevada, some of the smoke may be coming from the west of us or northwest,” said Baker.

The Coleman wildfire in northern California has reached 1,100 acres with 50 percent of its perimeter contained, according to the National Wildfire Coordination Group’s website.

The Eight Mile fire near Cañon City, Colo., is currently 524 acres in size, and 65 percent of its perimeter is contained. The other 35 percent is comprised of terrain that is too unsafe for firefighters.

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