DENVER (KDVR) — Homes that were left standing after the Marshall Fire may not have to worry about rebuilding, but that does not mean other concerns don’t remain.
Smoke and fire damage is top of mind for those whose neighbors’ homes were destroyed. Many of them are wondering what’s in the air they are breathing.
A group of researchers is getting to examine what exactly remains in the air of these homes. It’s a situation they say they have never seen before.
Joost de Gouw is an atmospheric chemist. While he is used to studying the impacts of wildfires on air quality, he said the sporadic nature of the Marshall Fire damage makes his research interesting.
“We’re standing in front of the house of a colleague. Obviously, it was exposed to heavy, heavy smoke. And the smoke got inside and unfortunately, the house is a little like a sponge: it soaks up a lot of that smoke, and when the fires went down, the air got a little better of course.”
But the air isn’t quite clear yet.
“All of the surfaces in your home start to give off those compounds again, from your walls, from your carpet, from your curtains, from your furniture. It will slowly get better, but it will take some time,” de Gouw said.
Many are still concerned about the smell of smoke inside their homes, but de Gouw said there are solutions to help clear it.
“Your nose is a good sensor, and if you can smell something, you may want to use an additional air cleaner to knock down that smell in your bedroom when you’re there to sleep. You have these standalone air cleaners again with activated carbon and they help a lot to knock down that smell,” de Gouw said.
Over the next few weeks, de Gouw and a group plan to take air samples from different homes to figure out the damage residents may not be able to see.
“We’ve studied wildfires for many years, so we know what’s in wildfire smoke. But this wasn’t a wildfire. What was burning here was home and building materials. So we don’t know as well what was in that smoke, and that’s what we’re hoping to find out when we make some measurements inside,” de Gouw said.
The team hopes to take samples from about 20 homes, de Gouw said, hoping to see the impacts being felt in different areas where the fire hit.