Angel Fire Smoky Skies shadow Northern New Mexico

By Eric Fincher<br />Staff writer

Anyone who has spent much time in the Enchanted Circle lately has probably noticed the thick layer of smoke hanging over the skies in the area.

According to the National Weather Service in Albuquerque, the grayish haze is mainly the result the 100,000-acre Wallow Fire burning near Alpine, Ariz. As of Monday afternoon, the Arizona blaze had charred 233,000 acres in just five days. Due to a slight shift in wind patterns over the weekend, the haze subsided for a short time.

But on Monday, a heavy layer of smoke had settled in over Northern New Mexico, diffusing sunlight and releasing the odious smell of campfires into the air. Daniel Porter of the National Weather Service said smoke levels in the northern part of the state should clear some by midweek.

“The smoke is coming from the large fire burning in Arizona,” Porter said. “The large smoke plume from the fire will mostly affect western sections of the state.”

Porter said some areas in Northern New Mexico will continue to have smoke in the air, but it won’t be as bad as it is in western parts of the state or in the Rio Grande Valley. Over the weekend, the wind had more of a southwest to northeast flow. Later this week, meteorologists expect the wind to flow more from west to east.

But the Arizona fire isn’t the only cause of hazy skies over the area, as the Osha Canyon Fire near Taos has been throwing large amounts of smoke into the air. The Osha Canyon Fire was 57 percent contained as of Monday afternoon. A downed power line, knocked over by high winds, sparked the 1,200- acre blaze that started June 1.

A bone-dry spring, accompanied by strong winds, has only served to make the threat wildland fires more persistent. A nepherlometer, or smoke sniffer, operated by the Air Force Research Lab (AFRL) at Kirkland Air Force Base in Albuquerque, calculated that the particulates in the air over the city were in the 98-percentile range over the weekend.

People can take some steps to protect themselves from smoke and ash in the air. According to the New Mexico Department of Health, sensitive groups such as the elderly, small children or any individuals with respiratory or heart problems should leave the area where the smoke levels are high until the smoke dissipates or stay inside as much as possible.

Air quality conditions associated with smoke are especially important for people with underlying health conditions such as asthma, emphysema, and cardiovascular disease. Some have reported that smoke from the fires is visible from as far away as Colorado and Kansas.

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