On top of old smoky | SummitDaily.com

On top of old smoky

Reid Williams

SUMMIT COUNTY – Early risers woke to a hazy pall of smoke Friday morning, causing many to call 911 dispatchers and sending firefighters out scouting the county.

The smoke shrouded Summit County as early as 2 a.m. and continued until sunshine and 70-degree temperatures dispersed the smoke about 9 a.m. The airborne fuzz was accompanied by the smell of smoke, and Summit County Communications dispatchers received a flood of calls from concerned residents.

“That was the topic of conversation for everyone sitting out front (Friday) morning,” said Jim Rodkey, owner of Rocky Mountain Coffee Roasters on Frisco’s Main Street. “You could actually smell it.”

The Red, White and Blue and Snake River fire departments sent out crews to scope their respective river basins for possible wildfires, but the valleys were flame-free.

“There were plenty of calls,” said Lt. Mike Roll, public information officer for Lake Dillon Fire-Rescue. “But, the departments have all been in tune with the weather and what’s going on at the Hayman fire, and everybody recognized it was a wind shift.”

The 100,000-acre Hayman fire began in the Pike National Forest, about 55 miles southwest of Denver. As of Friday afternoon, the fire was only 5 percent contained, having destroyed 22 homes forced the evacuation of 5,430 people, despite the efforts of more than 1,700 firefighters. The plume of smoke from the fire is visible looking southeast from many passes and peaks surrounding Summit County.

According to National Weather Service forecaster Dave Barjenbruch, smoke likely snuck into Summit County via Park County, over Hoosier Pass, during the night. Barjenbruch said a high pressure system in Colorado’s plains turned around the state’s usual easterly winds. Smoke from the fire site was pushed northeast into Park County. An inversion, a meteorological phenomenon in which the air near the surface is kept from rising, likely pinned down the smoke.

The sight was not a happy one for business owners such as Rodkey. The coffee retailer said the talk at his shop Friday morning was not worries about fire, but about the economic impact of the smoke. Not only does Summit County not have water, he said, but now it has smoke.

“Business was bad enough,” Rodkey said. “People’s hours have been cut back, they’re not making as much money. They expected things to be picking up by now, and here’s another nail in the coffin.”

The smoky haze also presents health concerns. Richard Snider knew the smoke was going to be a problem when he went to open Daylight Donuts on Breckenridge’s Main Street at 2 a.m. Snider, who serves many customers driving in from Fairplay and Alma in Park County, said most reported conditions were worse on the south side of Hoosier Pass.

“It was bothering a few of the customers,” Snider said. “It smelled like a campfire. It was definitely noticeable.”

Barjenbruch said the morning haze probably will continue until there’s a major change in weather systems. He said skies could be smoky for the next few days, or longer. But, he urged Summit County residents to look on the bright side.

“There’s going to be some pollution,” he said. “But the sunrises and sunsets should be spectacular.”

Reid Williams can be reached at (970) 668-3998 ext. 237 or rwilliams@summitdaily.com.

Smoke could pose breathing problems

As if it wasn’t hard enough to breathe in the High Country, the Hayman wildfire southwest of Denver is spreading its smoke across Summit County’s skies.

The smoke in the air could possibly cause breathing problems even for healthy individuals. Sufferers of emphysema, asthma and other respiratory difficulties could face serious risks from the haze. Coincidentally enough, a conference of physicians and therapists arrived Friday at Keystone Resort for a three-day American Association for Respiratory Care conference.

“Avoid the smoke as much as possible by staying indoors,” said Tom Kallstrom, the department director of respiratory care conferences at Cleveland’s Fairview Hospital, said in a press release. “It is also wise to consult with your physician about your medication.”

Kallstrom said an increase in medication could reduce symptoms and ward off asthma attacks. The key, he said, is to avoid the smoke.

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