Wildfire smoke pollution damaging air quality in Fort Collins

Rachel Musselmann

The Western United States is on fire and Fort Collins is feeling the burn.

According to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, smoke pollution resulting from wildfires in and around the state has significantly decreased visibility and air quality in Fort Collins. Currently, there are three wildfires in Colorado: the Four Mile Fire, the Haycamp Fire and the Sheep Fire, according to Esri Disaster Response Program.


Particulates such as ash, carbon monoxide and carcinogens, like formaldehyde, are potential dangers of forest fire smoke. Dr. Jennifer Peel of CSU’s Department of Environmental and Radiological Health said despite its dangerous ingredients, the current levels of smoke pollution should pose no real threat to most people in Fort Collins.

“For most people, eye or throat irritation will be the extent of symptoms,” Peel said. “People with chronic issues like asthma, pregnant women, children and people who exercise heavily outdoors are most likely to be affected.”

Those with serious health issues should be careful, Peel said.

“There is a fairly strong link between this type of pollution and sudden heart events,” Peel said. “Long-term exposure can even affect life expectancy.”

According to Kathlene Waller, co-director of Medical Services at Colorado State University, Hartshorn Medical Center has seen a recent increase in sore throats and allergy symptoms, in addition to the usual bike and skateboard injuries.

“It could be a virus, but this is definitely the start of the fall allergy season,” Waller said. “Smoke isn’t helping.”

Student athletes such as sophomore Hayleigh Evans, an undeclared journalism student, may see their performance impacted by smoke. Evans, a softball player, said she has recently suffered congestion and “a bit of a cough,” as well as trouble breathing while running.

“I actually moved here (to Fort Collins) to get away from allergies, because of lower humidity,” Evans said. “I thought it would get better here, but it’s not.”

According to Peel, smoke pollution will likely be reoccurring until wildfire season dies down in mid-October, and she recommends checking the Colorado Department of Public Health website for up-to-the-minute information on local air quality.

Collegian City Beat Reporter Rachel Musselmann can be reached online at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @rlmusselmann.