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Air quality takes a hit across Montana due to wildfire smoke

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Posted at 7:23 PM, Sep 04, 2023
and last updated 2023-09-04 22:06:27-04

An AIR QUALITY ALERT is in effect for a lot of Montana east of I-15 until at least 9am on Tuesday. The air quality is going to be unhealthy for many parts of Montana.

A DENSE SMOKE ADVISORY is in effect for northeastern Montana until 4pm Tuesday. Visibility less than one mile is possible in dense smoke.

The smoky, hazy skies are due to widespread smoke from Canadian wildfires, dropping the air quality levels across many parts of Montana.

On Tuesday, it will continue to be smoky in eastern Montana and it is going to be smoky/hazy in central Montana, with the smoke/haze decreasing some as the day goes on.

Widespread improvement is then expected for all of central and eastern Montana on Wednesday. In central and eastern Montana, the air quality is going to be unhealthy for everyone at times, especially tonight and tomorrow.

The "Today's Air" website provides the latest air quality data from across Montana, along with color-coded details about health effects of wildfire smoke.

People are encouraged to check air quality levels regularly and follow guidelines associated with the air quality levels. Where air monitors aren’t present, use visibility guidelines to estimate air quality.

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 several resources people can check for information on wildfire and area smoke.