In what may be the county’s first air quality advisory in at least a couple of years, Chaffee County Public Health has issued an air quality advisory for northeastern Saguache, southeastern Chaffee and northwestern Fremont counties due to the wildfires burning in the San Luis Valley and western Colorado. The warning includes the communities of Alder, Villa Grove, Salida, Cleora and Wellsville and extends through mid-morning Wednesday, Sept. 11, although it is unknown if it will last longer.

At least four wildfires are burning in Central and western Colorado at the moment. The Decker Fire is moving to the northeast, with smoke from the fire blowing towards the Chaffee/Fremont county line. It could bring periods of heavy smoke to Salida, Cleora and Wellsville. However, heavier smoke is expected Tuesday night and Wednesday morning to locations below the fire to the south and southwest in northeastern Saguache County. Areas with the heaviest smoke impacts will be along and near U.S. Highway 285, from Alder south to Villa Grove.

The 2,600-acre Hunt Fire is in southern Rio Blanco County, approximately 30 miles southwest of Meeker. The 265 acre Middle Mamm Fire is in southern Garfield County, approximately 10 miles south of Rifle. The Vallecitio-Piedra Fire is a prescribed burn in Archuleta County, about 10 miles to the northeast of Bayfield.

Health officials warn that periods of moderate to heavy smoke are expected from the Decker wildfire Tuesday evening through Wednesday morning.

“The increasing smoke in the air has been a concern for Chaffee County Public Health, especially over the past 24 hours,” said Chaffee County Public Health Director Andrea Carlstrom in a statement issued at 5 p.m, Sept. 10. “We encourage all Chaffee County residents and visitors to take the above recommendations seriously. For more urgent respiratory health matters, please contact your primary care physician,”

The advisory is in effect until at least 9 a.m. Wednesday, Sept. 11, although it might stretch longer. Wildfire smoke can be a health hazard if visibility is less than five miles due to smoke. Public health recommends that if smoke is thick in your neighborhood, to remain indoors. The warnings are especially important to those suffering from heart disease, respiratory illnesses, the very young, and the elderly.