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Wildfire, fire management and air quality news for western Montana and the Northern Rockies.

Air Quality Update For Western Montana, August 24, 2018

Overhead smoke from fires to Montana's southwest. Smoke from Washington is expected to swing toward Montana and continue for the next few days.

Smoke from yesterday evening stuck around all night and we woke up to smoky skies this morning. 

Conditions have been holding steady at Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups in most of Missoula County (Seeley Lake has been generally keeping to the upper edges of Moderate, but there’s still a lot of overhead smoke in the area.) Cloud cover made this morning particularly dismal, but despite appearances, we haven’t tipped into Unhealthy air quality quite yet. Of course, for a lot of folks – mainly the elderly, children and anyone with heart or lung disease, this is unhealthy air. Fun smoke fact: roughly 30% of the population falls into the Sensitive Groups category. That’s a lot of folks. So even if you’re all hunky dory with the smoke in the area, understand a lot of people are likely being affected. Wildfire smoke season is always a great time of year to treat each other with a little bit of extra kindness. When air quality is Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups, people with heart or lung disease, children and the elderly should limit prolonged outdoor exertion. Anyone experiencing symptoms of heart or lung disease associated with smoke exposure should contact their health care provider.

We’re currently coping with the remnants of the smoke plume that rolled over our area yesterday evening as well as some smoke being pulled into our area by southwesterly flow aloft. The direction of our overhead winds is going to shift in the next few hours and that will put us, once again, downwind of the fires in Washington and British Columbia. If you check out the satellite photo, you’ll see there’s a glorious gap of clean air between our current smoky air and the Washington smoke. As our weather shifts throughout the day, there’s a good chance we’ll see some nice smoke clearing as that area of clean air moves overhead. However, it will be closely followed by more smoke. Strong winds and general atmospheric turbulence from a passing weak cold front may keep the smoke at bay for a few additional hours this afternoon, so pay attention to changing conditions and run outside quick like a bunny when the air clears!

If we do get some of that sweet, sweet clean air, it will unfortunately be short-lived. The Washington and Canadian fires are still going gangbusters, and the overhead winds are going to deliver that smoke for at least the next few days.

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