Air pollution in the Missoula area has worsened to the point where the City County Health Department has increased the alert level from Stage One to Stage Two.

Air Quality Specialist Ben Schmidt said the area affected has increased beyond Tuesday's Stage One Alert.

"In Stage Two, that are is expanded quite a bit, all the way out past Frenchtown, and the restrictions on burning wood get tighter," Schmidt said. "Unless you have a sole source permit, meaning that the wood stove is your only source of heat, you can no longer use your wood-burning appliance."

Schmidt said the penalties for burning during an alert start small, but can increase dramatically.

"We start with education," he said. "First there is a warning, then the next offense is a $50 fine, then it goes to $250 for the second offense and $500 each for the third and subsequent offenses."

Schmidt said he is sure that the weather will change in the next few days and that air quality will improve.