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Montana requests regional air quality exceptions due to wildfire

Wing-Chi Poon
Wildfire smoke in Oregon, taken August 20, 2006.

The state of Montana is seeking exceptions to federal air pollution standards in northwest Montana due to wildfire smoke in 2020.

The state Department of Environmental Quality says fire activity in Oregon and California drove down air quality in Thompson Falls and Whitefish for about a week in September of last year. The agency is asking the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to exclude those days from federal air quality review.

Data from the National Interagency Coordination Center show the number of acres burned in the U.S. annually has been steadily increasing over the last 40-some years. More than 10 million acres burned due to wildfires in 2020.

The state is seeking the exception designation as part of an effort to redesignate the air quality status of Thompson Falls as compliant with federal standards.

Public comment on the air quality exception is open until Nov. 8. Comment may be submitted in writing to Liz Urlich at or: MT DEQ AQB, 1520 E 6th Ave, Helena, MT 59620-0901.