Posted: Aug 30, 2012 5:24 PM by Dennis Bragg - KPAX News
Updated: Aug 30, 2012 9:43 PM
MISSOULA- Montana's air quality is continuing to deteriorate in some areas, with both the Bitterroot and Gallatin Valleys reporting unhealthy conditions Thursday because of fire smoke.
Missoula, Frenchtown, Great Falls, Billings and Helena have had varied air quality throughout the day. Missoula has ranged from "good" to, most recently, "unhealthy to sensitive groups," according to a county press release issued late Thursday afternoon.
While much of the state has experienced varied air quality because of the fires in the region, the brunt of the pollution continues to plague the Bitterroot and southwest Montana. Most of that smoke in the west has been pouring out of Idaho. But additional Montana fires are also contributing to the problem.
Montana Department of Environmental Quality reports air quality in Hamilton finally hit the "unhealthy" stage today, with the worst air in the overnight hours and starting to climb again by mid-afternoon. And for a few hours, particulates were actually in the "hazardous" range if a person were exposed for a full 24 hours.
DEQ reports Bozeman has also seen some readings in the "unhealthy" range, while Butte remains "unhealthy for sensitive groups". That includes children, the elderly and people with respiratory problems.
Most of the Flathead and Northwest Montana have escaped the brunt of the fire smoke. While there have been some smoky periods this week, air quality has generally remained "good".
Wind in the forecast could help improve the conditions somewhat for the weekend, although cooler nighttime temperatures are also trapping some of the smoke closer to the ground. The winds are also increasing the risk of new fire starts.
(Photo: the smoky haze over Hamilton in the last few days.)