Air Quality

It’s fall and that means it’s prescribed fire season in Montana. Wildland managers are now intentionally setting fires to reduce forest fuel buildup or to restore native vegetation.

Two prescribed wildfire operations just north of Missoula produced dense smoke that degraded air quality to unhealthy levels Wednesday night into Thursday morning. As weather forecasters predicted though, a cold front pushed into the region Thursday afternoon, increasing winds which helped dissipate the smoke.

Snow samples from three national parks in the Rocky Mountains reflect improved air quality in the region since the mid-1990s. That’s according to a recent publication from the National Park Service.

Smoke from prescribed burns in Idaho is making its way to western Montana Wednesday as the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forest begins its prescribed burn season.

The fires ignited Wednesday are expected to burn for several weeks. According to Missoula County Air Quality specialist Sarah Coefield, "These burns are typically the most smoky during and immediately following ignition."

Julia Manzerova / Flickr


Wildfires in Montana have made the state a prominent feature in the American Lung Association’s 20th annual State of the Air report.

Air quality is a major issue across much of the Mountain West. That’s true in some rural areas - such as Wyoming’s Upper Green River Basin - as well as in cities like Salt Lake City, Missoula and Denver. Now Denver just won a national challenge grant, funded by Bloomberg, to tackle the problem.

A new study shows air pollution like soot, dust and smoke is down around the country with one exception: wildfire prone areas like the Mountain West.  

What we know about air pollution and health has roots in the mountain valleys of Utah. Winter smog episodes here are legendary.

The Environmental Protection Agency just announced its plan to roll back vehicle emissions standards. That could be cause for concern in Mountain West communities with poor air quality.

Missoula City-County Air Quality Specialist Sarah Coefield brings us another of her excellent daily reports:

"Good morning, We're seeing smoke impacts in communities near active fires this morning. While most of Missoula County has generally Moderate air quality this morning, thicker smoke is trapped in the Arlee, Lolo and Seeley Lake valleys.

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