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Wildfire smoke continues affecting Montana air quality

Montana air quality on Friday, May 19, 2023
Posted at 3:35 PM, May 19, 2023
and last updated 2023-05-19 17:36:46-04

GREAT FALLS — Air quality in some parts of Montana is rated as "unhealthy" by the Montana Department of Environmental Quality (link) due to wildfire smoke.

The wildfire smoke is being blown into Montana from dozens of wildfires burning in Alberta and British Columbia; there are no large fires burning in Montana.

From the Alberta government: "Hot, dry conditions continue in most areas of the province resulting in numerous wildfires. A provincial state of emergency has been declared."

As of Friday afternoon (May 19, 2023), the air quality is listed as "unhealthy" (red) by the DEQ in Great Falls, Helena, Flathead Valley, and Missoula.

Air quality is listed as "unhealthy for sensitive groups" (orange) in Hamilton, Bozeman, Dillon.

Here are the six color-coded classifications of air quality:

  • MAROON: Hazardous - Health warning of emergency conditions: everyone is more likely to be affected.
  • PURPLE: Very Unhealthy - health alert - the risk of health effects is increased for everyone.
  • RED: Unhealthy - some members of the general public may experience health effects; members of sensitive groups may experience more serious health effects.
  • ORANGE: Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups - members of sensitive groups may experience health effects. The general public is less likely to be affected.
  • YELLOW: Moderate - air quality is acceptable. However, there may be a risk for some people, particularly those who are unusually sensitive to air pollution.
  • GREEN: Good - air quality is satisfactory, and air pollution poses little or no risk.

On days when the air quality is forecast to be unhealthy you can take steps to reduce your exposure, including:

  • Choose a less intense activity.
  • Shorten your outdoor activities.
  • Reschedule activities.
  • Exercise away from busy roads.

When particle levels are high outdoors, they can be high indoors too. So how do you keep particles lower indoors?

  • Reduce your use of fireplaces and wood stoves.
  • Don’t use candles or smoke indoors.
  • Use HEPA air filters in your HVAC system.
  • Buy or make your own portable air cleaner designed to reduce particles indoors.
  • If you don't have an air conditioner, staying inside with the windows closed may be dangerous in extremely hot weather.
  • If you are hot, go someplace with air conditioning or check with your local government to find out if cooling centers are available in your community.

There are a number of resources people can check for information on wildfire and area smoke.


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