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Wildfires Bring Air Quality To ‘Moderate’

Charene Herrera
Lolo Peak Fire

The Lolo Peak Fire is just one of many small blazes that are burning around western Montana, dropping the Missoula valley’s official air quality from ‘Good’ to ‘Moderate’.

Air Quality Specialist with the Missoula City County Health department, Sarah Coefield, said on Wednesday that the smoke from the Lolo Peak fire is mostly staying at higher elevations.

“The good news is that so far, air quality in the Missoula and Frenchtown valleys has only been moderately impacted by the smoke from the fires,” Coefield said. “The smoke has remained pretty far overhead, where it is more a visibility impact than a health threat.  The particulate levels in Frenchtown were briefly elevated last night, but quickly fell back down to moderate levels. We are likely to continue to see a persistent haze in the valley due to continued fire activity.  In the afternoons, you can expect to see heightened fire activity and visible plumes on the horizon as increased afternoon temperatures and diurnal breezes drive fire activity.”

Coefield said we’re just getting started with wildfire season, and more smoke may be on the way into the valley.

“The longer the smoke sticks around, the more people are going to be noticing it,” she said. “People who are really sensitive to smoke, particularly people with asthma or COPD, chronic bronchitis or emphysema are more likely to be impacted by the Lolo smoke we have right now. Those folks should really be paying attention to their symptoms and taking measures to protect themselves.”

Coefield said there are no large fires in the area that could be dumping smoke into the valley, but could change rapidly with the continued hot, dry weather.

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