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Out of state wildfire smoke expected to build this weekend along the Wasatch Front

(Photo: Ravell Call, KSL, File)

SALT LAKE COUNTY, Utah- A massive wildfire is churning outside Sacramento, along with hundreds more throughout California.  More fires burn in Southern Idaho.  More of this smoke is expected to drift to the Wasatch Front and intensify over the weekend.

Luckily, it won’t get too bad, for now.  “We’re not expecting the level of smoke… to exceed what we consider the moderate range,” says Jared Mendenhall of the Utah Division of Air Quality.  That would be the moderately unhealthy, yellow category. 

Mendenhall says this fine particulate matter in the smoke is the same kind of stuff we breathe in during winter inversions. “[They] are small enough to bypass the body’s natural filters.”  He says people who have breathing issues should take precautions.  For instance, not spending too much time exercising outside and keeping doors and windows closed tight. 

He says we’ve had a fortunate weather pattern that helped us avoid more of the imported wildfire smoke so far.  “At the first part of the month, a lot of the smoke missed the Wasatch Front and Utah,”  Mendenhall says high-pressure systems between us and California to help us block the smoke.  Whether they return is up to Mother Nature. 

This can be a challenging time for air quality in the dog days of summer in Utah.  “Its a one-two punch,” says Mendenhall.  “It’s still HOT, with ozone production still happening.  [Add into that] the wildfire smoke.”  

So while the particle pollution isn’t expected to get above yellow, the ozone could push us into orange. 

Get the air quality forecast plus tips on how to reduce emissions at air.utah.gov.