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‘Hazardous’ Smoke Returns To Montana, With More Likely To Come

A man fly fishes on the Clark Fork River in Missoula on a smoky July morning.
Freddy Monares
A man fly fishes on the Clark Fork River in Missoula on a smoky July morning.

This weekend’s resurgence of acrid wildfire smoke serves as a reminder that Montana’s wildfire season is far from over.

Last month’s rainfall brought a welcome reprieve to Montana’s active fire season. Experts at the time, however, cautioned it was not a so-called “season-ending” event. This weekend’s smoky air, which dipped into “Hazardous” range in many parts of Montana, proved them right.

“There’s still fires actively burning along the West Coast states in Washington, Oregon and California,” Missoula City-County Health Department Air Quality Specialist Sarah Coefield says.

Coefield says the recent sunny, warm weather has also stirred up existing fires in Idaho and Montana. Missoula County fire officials Tuesday bumped the fire danger back up to “High” due to the elevated fire risk.

“We are still in wildfire season. That smoke came and packed quite a wallop. I don’t think any of us appreciated it,” Coefield says.

Coefield expects more smoke incursions over the coming days, though perhaps not quite as severe as this weekend’s.

She urges Montanans to pay attention to changing smoke conditions and check out for practical tips for checking the current air quality and creating cleaner indoor air spaces.

Copyright 2021 Montana Public Radio

Edward O'Brien is Montana Public Radio's Associate News Director.