Air quality Thursday reaches dangerous levels in Steamboat

Smoke obscured the view of Mount Werner and the slopes of the Steamboat Resort early Wednesday afternoon before clearing later in the day. Scott Cowman, Environmental Health Director for Routt County, said while he couldn't say for sure where the heavy smoke came from he expects it was created by a mixture of smoke coming from fires out west and several local fires including the Middle Fork Fire, which has grown to 10,054 acres.
John F. Russell

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Air quality levels at the Routt County Courthouse in downtown Steamboat Springs peaked at a level of 566 on the air quality index Thursday afternoon, indicating levels that could pose health risks to anyone exposed.

According to, an air quality measuring website, levels peaked at around 11:30 a.m. Thursday due to dense smoke coming into the area from surrounding wildfires, including the Middle Fork Fire. Measurements greater than 401 are considered emergency conditions and the entire population is likely at risk if exposed for lengthy periods.

An air quality sensor at the Routt County Courthouse in downtown Steamboat Springs shows the levels for the last few days, peaking Thursday.

Dense smoke may pose health risks especially for those with heart disease, respiratory illness, the very young and the elderly. A rule of thumb is that if visibility is less than 5 miles, smoke has reached unhealthy levels. Those feeling sick from the smoke should temporarily relocate.

According to the Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment’s Air Pollution Control Division, heavy smoke will gradually decrease later Thursday afternoon due to atmospheric mixing. Transport winds at the fires will be out of a west to southwesterly direction, sending smoke to areas of Jackson County.

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To reach Bryce Martin, call 970-871-4206 or email

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