Wildfire smoke beginning to impact Western Montana air quality - KTVQ.com | Q2 | Continuous News Coverage | Billings, MT

Wildfire smoke beginning to impact Western Montana air quality

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Air quality was listed as moderate in Missoula and Frenchtown on Friday.

The Sunrise Fire sent out a thick plume of smoke last night that briefly settled into the Frenchtown area around 10 p.m. on Thursday and conditions ranged from Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups to Unhealthy for a few hours.

There is the potential for additional fire growth Friday afternoon due to gusty winds.  There will likely be visible plumes from surrounding fires by mid-to-late afternoon. Local health officials say that while the smoke should remain high overhead and be whisked away by the breezes, there's potential that the Frenchtown and Alberton areas will see smoke settling in the valleys after the sun sets and the wind dies down. 

Winds will be dying down this weekend and a high pressure ridge will be setting up, so the Missoula area will likely return to the relatively persistent hazy conditions we saw earlier this week. 

Sarah Coefield with the Missoula City-County Health Department says residents in the Rock Creek area are likely seeing periodic smoke impacts from fires burning in that drainage. Coefield added it is a good idea for anyone near an active wildfire to use visibility as a guideline to help determine smoke levels. 

In general, if you can’t see more than five miles, conditions are Unhealthy, and you should take steps to limit your exposure.  In particular, children, the elderly, and people with heart and lung disease should limit exposure to smoke.

The Lolo Peak Fire picked up some acreage Thursday and also sent out a highly visible plume late in the afternoon. The smoke has not made a strong impact on Missoula air quality as of yet, but Coefield says Lolo and Florence residents may be seeing localized areas of poor air quality.  People living or working near the fire should be alert to changing smoke conditions and pay attention to how they are reacting to the smoke. 

The Little Hogback and Sliderock fires also saw growth Thursday with the Little Hogback fire sending out a pretty good plume of smoke this afternoon.  In general, smoke from these fires is unlikely to impact the Missoula Valley.  However, people living in the Rock Creek drainage may be seeing elevated levels of smoke pollution.

The Goat Creek Fire started Wednesday afternoon and has quickly grown to more than 400 acres.  While its plume has not impacted the Missoula Valley, Missoula County residents who live in the Rock Creek area should be alert to changing air quality conditions. 

Due to the proximity of the fire to populated areas, it is likely some residents are experiencing conditions that are Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups or worse.  We encourage folks to use visibility as a guideline to help determine air quality conditions. 

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