Growing Decker Fire Near Salida Prompts Health Warnings Over Smoke

The Decker Fire burns near Salida, Colo.
Chaffee County Fire Department / Facebook
The Decker Fire burns near Salida, Colo.

A cold front is helping to move smoke out of Colorado Springs, but air quality in counties around the Decker Fire remains dangerous.

Smoke was visible Monday around Colorado Springs and El Paso County from the Decker wildfire near Salida that has grown to more than 2,200 acres. Fire officials said high winds made a smoke column that could be dangerous to people’s health.

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment has extended an air quality advisory until Wednesday morning. The affected area includes Chaffee and Fremont counties.

Scott Landes is a supervisor and air quality meteorologist at CDPHE. He advised people in the area to stay inside as much as possible or to relocate temporarily to somewhere with less smoke.

“If you have a landmark nearby that you know is five miles or more away from you, it can be a mountain, if you can’t see that anymore, you know the visibility has dropped.” Landes said. “At that point, the smoke is unhealthy.”

Northerly wind Tuesday morning moved smoke out of the Colorado Springs and into San Luis Valley, according to meteorologist Tom Magnuson.

“It’s primarily a risk to people sensitive to smoke: children or other adults,” Magnuson said. “Heavy exertion or prolonged exposure to smoke can aggravate pre-existing conditions such as asthma, heart [disease], or lung disease.”

Magnuson said there was no danger in Colorado Springs at midday Tuesday.

There’s also a red flag warning in effect for the area around Pueblo. There will be low humidity, gusty winds up to 45 miles per hour, and other conditions ideal for rapid rates of fire growth and spread throughout Tuesday.

Dangerous fire conditions will continue to develop in the San Luis Valley and Chaffee and Lake counties Wednesday.

There is a chance that the smoke can return to Colorado Springs Thursday if the fire flares up and the wind shifts again, Magnuson said.

Officials are planning to hold a public meeting to update residents on the fire at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday in Salida.