The Montana Department of Environmental Quality has issued an Air Quality Alert for the entire state due to wildfire smoke from nearby fires. This is scheduled to be in effect until 9 a.m. Thursday.

Air quality is expected to range from moderate to unhealthy with pockets of very unhealthy near active fires. Conditions are expected to improve when widespread rain moves into the area on Thursday.

An Air Quality Alert means that particulates have been trending upwards and exceed the 24 hour National Ambient Air Quality Standard (NAAQS), or may exceed that level in the near future.

The Billings area and most of south central and southeast Montana have been rated with “Unhealthy” air quality throughout the day Wednesday.

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“Unhealthy” means the particulate level of smoke is high enough that it is recommended active children and adults, and people with respiratory disease, such as asthma, should avoid prolonged outdoor exertion; everyone else, especially children, should limit prolonged outdoor exertion.

Helena air quality was listed as “Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups” on Wednesday. That means state officials recommend that people with respiratory or heart disease, the elderly and children should limit prolonged outdoor activity.

MTN’s Ed McIntosh