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Smoke from Canadian fires is turning the air brown in the Front Range

Colorado health officials on Friday advised the elderly, children and residents with respiratory ailments in metro Denver, Boulder, Fort Collins and Greeley to limit outdoor activity as smoke spreads into the state from fires burning in Canada, contaminating the air people breathe.

Those fires raging in western Canada, the result of dry vegetation and unusually high temperatures, have driven thousands of Canadians from their homes and forced shutdowns of oil and gas wells and pipelines — churning up smoke into the atmosphere. More than 90 fires were sweeping across Alberta and other parts of western Canada with authorities estimating more than 1,800 square miles burned — ten times the norm for this time of year.

Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment officials on Friday morning issued a health advisory covering most of eastern Colorado, effective through Friday night, anticipating air quality will be “unhealthy for sensitive groups.” Smoke containing fine particulates was reducing the air quality, evident as a brown-gray haze mixing with fog Friday morning in Denver, obscuring views of downtown buildings and mountains to the west of the city.

Medical experts warn of potential “compounding” health effects when particulate air pollution mixes with the ground-level ozone pollution afflicting Colorado’s Front Range cities, for which the state has become a severe violator of federal health standards.

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