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

Montana requests regional air quality exceptions due to wildfire

Wildfire smoke in Oregon, taken August 20, 2006.
Wing-Chi Poon
Wildfire smoke in Oregon, taken August 20, 2006.

The state of Montana is seeking exceptions to federal air pollution standards in northwest Montana due to wildfire smoke in 2020.

The state Department of Environmental Quality says fire activity in Oregon and California drove down air quality in Thompson Falls and Whitefish for about a week in September of last year. The agency is asking the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to exclude those days from federal air quality review.

Data from the National Interagency Coordination Center show the number of acres burned in the U.S. annually has been steadily increasing over the last 40-some years. More than 10 million acres burned due to wildfires in 2020.

The state is seeking the exception designation as part of an effort to redesignate the air quality status of Thompson Falls as compliant with federal standards.

Public comment on the air quality exception is open until Nov. 8. Comment may be submitted in writing to Liz Urlich at EUlrich2@mt.gov or: MT DEQ AQB, 1520 E 6th Ave, Helena, MT 59620-0901.

Copyright 2021 Yellowstone Public Radio. To see more, visit Yellowstone Public Radio.

Kayla Desroches reports for Yellowstone Public Radio in Billings. She was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, and stayed in the city for college, where she hosted a radio show that featured serialized dramas like the Shadow and Suspense. In her pathway to full employment, she interned at WNYC in New York City and KTOO in Juneau, Alaska. She then spent a few years on the island of Kodiak, Alaska, where she transitioned from reporter to news director before moving to Montana.