The visit to Moab last Sunday was fantastic. There were clear blue skies and sunshine that beamed off the red rocks.
Then the Gomar family, from Alvin, Texas, drove to Springville to visit family. They saw flames as they drove west on U.S. Highway 6. In Springville, the air was so bad they canceled plans to go hiking, fishing and cycling. Pablo Gomar, 31, and his wife made their two kids, ages 5 and 7, wear masks when they did go outside.
“With small children and their immune system, it was, like, maybe we shouldn’t do all these outdoor things,” Gomar said.
Wildfires have grayed Utah’s skies at the peak of the state’s summer outdoor season. Over the last week, everyone from recreational hikers and bikers to world-class athletes have changed plans or lodged complaints.
At the Tour of Utah on Thursday, Jasper Philipsen, a Belgian rider who finished second in the stage that took riders from Antelope Island to Layton, said the thin, dirty air was “very difficult.”
"My throat is hurting,” he said after the stage.
Golfers rode in carts Thursday in the final round of the Utah Women's Open at East Bay Golf Course in Provo. Ordinarily, many of them would have been walking.
Also in Provo, Brigham Young University football coach Kalani Sitake adjusted his team’s practice schedule to reduce players’ time outdoors. In Spanish Fork, a movie screening in a city park and a Spanish Fork High School football scrimmage were canceled.
At Provo Pioneer Village, summer Saturdays usually mean a steady stream of visitors — about 75 people on average, estimates Alex Quinn, a volunteer there. On this Saturday, Quinn said, only about 10 had arrived by noon.
“I’ve mainly been sitting around waiting for people, who I’m fairly certain aren’t coming due to the poor air quality,” Quinn wrote in an email to The Tribune.
He didn’t blame people for staying away.
“My throat has been sore all morning,” Quinn wrote.
The air in Salt Lake, Davis, Weber and Utah counties remained “unhealthy for sensitive groups” on Saturday, according to the Utah Division of Air Quality. The division’s forecasts called for the air to remain unhealthy through at least Tuesday.
Jess Gomez, a spokesman for Intermountain Healthcare, said in the past 10 days the hospital and clinic system has “seen a significant increase in the number of people who are seeing their primary care physician or coming into our InstaCare or emergency departments” with symptoms associated with poor air quality.
Workers have made changes, too. Dakota Nielsen, an apprentice lineman for Rocky Mountain Power, wears a mask while working on replacement power poles along Highway 6 where the Coal Hollow Fire burnt. Occasionally, he can see the ash falling.
“The less stuff in my lungs the better,” Nielsen said. “It’s been really bad.”
Anyone looking up at a mountain along the Wasatch Front, or down from a mountain overlook, can see a haze.
Jay Drew, Paighten Harkins, Francisco Kjolseth, Kurt Kragthorpe and Gordon Monson contributed to this report.
Correction at 12:34 a.m. on Aug. 12, 2018: An earlier version of this story and accompanying photo incorrectly identified the lineman from Rocky Mountain Power.