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Air quality continues to decline due to wildfire smoke

Air quality continues to decline due to wildfire smoke
Posted at 4:49 PM, Aug 25, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-25 18:59:23-04

Air quality continues to decline in several counties across Montana, according to the state Department of Environmental Quality.

The decreased air quality is due primarily to wildfire smoke blowing into Montana from other states, including California; there are several fires in western and southwestern Montana also contributing to the smoke and haze.

The DEQ says that air quality has reached UNHEALTHY FOR SENSITIVE GROUPS in several locations. Thunderstorms are possible this afternoon and evening across a large area of the state. After these storms pass, westerly flow will begin to take over, which will help to push smoke from the California fires out of Montana.

Areas that have reached the designation of "unhealthy for sensitive groups" by the DEQ as of Tuesday afternoon include Great Falls, Helena, Lewistown, Missoula, and Bozeman.

The designation of “unhealthy for sensitive groups” impacts a larger segment of the population than many realize, according to Sarah Coefield, Missoula City-County air quality specialist.: “It includes children, includes the elderly, it’s anyone with heart or lung disease, it’s people with diabetes, it’s people who are pregnant. It’s a pretty significant portion of our population.”

From the DEQ Today's Air website as of 4:45 a.m. on Tuesday, August 25:

  • An AIR QUALITY ALERT is in effect for the following counties: Beaverhead, Blaine, Broadwater, Cascade, Deer Lodge, Fergus, Gallatin, Granite, Jefferson, Judith Basin, Lewis and Clark, Madison, Meagher, Missoula, Park, Phillips, Powell, Ravalli, and Silver Bow, in effect until further notice.
  • Air quality in Bozeman, Broadus, Butte, Great Falls, Hamilton, Helena, Lewistown, and Malta is currently UNHEALTHY FOR SENSITIVE GROUPS. Air quality briefly hit UNHEALTHY in Malta earlier this morning.
  • Public health officials recommend that people with respiratory or heart disease, the elderly, and children should avoid prolonged exertion.