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Photos show orange skies, towering smoke over Colorado wildfires as concerns mount over air quality


The Cameron Peak fire began in August and has spread across over 270 square miles, passing the Pine Gulch Fire as the state’s largest wildfire ever.


Wildfires continue to rage in Colorado, filling the sky with choking smoke, threatening water sources and creating apocalyptic scenes reminiscent of the orange skies produced by September’s wildfires on the West Coast.

The sky has been gray and the sun hazy for much of September and October across parts of the state. In the northern Colorado city of Fort Collins, Glen Akins said the smoke has gotten thick and dark enough that streetlights have turned on during the day.

Gov. Jared Polis on Thursday expressed concern that some residents who may be sick with COVID-19 are attributing coughs, sore throats and other symptoms to the poor air quality.

Colorado wildfires: Rocky Mountain National Park closes, tourist town evacuates after fire erupts

“We do worry that the impact on respiratory conditions from the fires could mask the spread of COVID,” Polis said. “The early symptoms of COVID look a lot like breathing bad air for a period of hours and then, of course, the difference is, in some cases, COVID significantly worsens over the next few days.”

That comes as the rapidly growing East Troublesome Fire prompted Rocky Mountain National Park to completely close after the fire exploded into the southwest corner of the park on Wednesday night.

Normally, snow helps tamp down the devastation by this time of year, but drought across Colorado and warming temperatures have dragged out the season, fire scientist Jennifer Balch said.

“We don’t see October fires that get this large,” she said.

Photos taken over the past week show the continuing impact of the fires, including the Cameron Peak Fire, the largest in the state’s history:

Contributing: Miles Blumhardt and Kelly Lyell, Fort Collins (Colo.) Coloradoan; The Associated Press

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