DENVER (KDVR) — As a thick cloud of smoke enveloped Denver Saturday afternoon, the crowds at Washington Park began to dwindle.
By 3 p.m., only about a dozen players remained on the basketball courts, known for huge crowds for pick-up games on the weekends.
“I can’t even keep my eyes open, to tell you the truth,” Tomas Gee said.
“I was coughing,” Derrell Lewis added. “Everybody felt it, everybody could feel it.”
Around 2 p.m., Denver’s air quality was briefly ranked as the worst in the world by IQAir, due in part to wildfires along the West Coast. It has returned to that top spot and held on for a few hours Saturday evening.
But is it dangerous to be outside? Doctors say it depends.
“I think most people can get out and exercise regularly, with a few important clarifiers,” Dr. Jeff Sippel with UCHealth said. “What I would recommend is early in the morning is going to be better, perhaps later in the evening after the air has settled, and after a rainstorm, things like that, to minimize the exposure.”
Sippel said while it may be uncomfortable to be outside, healthy individuals likely won’t experience any long-term damage from doing so this weekend.
He said it’s a different story for people with asthma, COPD, and other heart and lung issues.
“If someone is exposed for even as long as 10 or 15 minutes, especially if they have asthma or COPD, that is long enough to cause some irritation,” he said. “Irritation in the eyes, the nose, the mucus membranes and things like that, and that can be in a matter of minutes, and all of us are eligible to have that type of a symptom.”
Sippel said masks, especially medical grade masks, can help alleviate some of those symptoms.
“Any mask that has a reasonable seal, will be helpful,” he said. “Whatever can be done to help filter out some of the particulate matter, would be a helpful thing.”
Sippel said some people will be more sensitive to the air than others this weekend, and that’s completely normal.
“I don’t notice it too much,” Max Rieser said. “For the most part if it’s like this, it’s fine. I’m not stressing about it too much.”