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Wildfire Smoke Update
for
Thursday, July 18, 2013 10:15 AM

Satellite Photos | Locations and Smoke Conditions


Today's Report and Forecast Today's Summary
Wildfire season is coming into full swing with at least two known wildfires in western Montana and several more in Idaho and other parts of the West. Despite the presence of these wildfires, air quality has remained generally GOOD across the state. The exception, of course, has been the town of Superior and the surrounding valley, where the West Mullan fire has burned for the past 5 days. The Forest Service has provided an air monitor in Superior to help monitor the smoke and air quality conditions. Currently, air quality is MODERATE in Superior. Heavy that settled into the valley overnight caused air quality to become UNHEALTHY around 2:00 AM, but smoke has since spread out to reduce air quality impacts. Because that smoke has spread, hourly particulate concentrations in nearby Frenchtown also became MODERATE overnight, but has slowly improved to GOOD as of the latest update this morning. However, cumulative particulate concentrations, averaged over 24-hours, is UNHEALTHY FOR SENSITIVE GROUPS in Frenchtown and MODERATE in Missoula, where hourly concentrations are also GOOD. Elsewhere, a light haze is visible in the air over the Helena Valley and in the plains off the Rocky Mountain Front, but air quality is GOOD in all of those locations.

For today, warmer and drier air will move into the state. Afternoon winds around the fires will be moderate and will generally blow smoke to the east and southeast. Air quality will remain generally MODERATE to GOOD throughout the day, including the towns of Superior, Frenchtown, and Missoula.
There will be another smoke update this afternoon with a long-term look at potential fire activity and air quality through the weekend.
Residents near active fires and under plumes aloft need to remain aware of current conditions and use the visibility guidelines to guide their activity decisions as the situation changes.

Kristen Martin
State Air Quality Meteorologist
Air Resource Management Bureau
Montana Department of Environmental Quality
Phone: (406) 444-0283
Email: kmartin@mt.gov




This is a visible satellite image from 9:45 this morning. You can see some of the smoke that has settled into the valleys of parts of Mineral, Sanders, and Missoula Counties. As the air warms up today, that smoke will lift out of the valleys by this afternoon. 

This is a visible satellite image from 9:45 this morning. You can see some of the smoke that has settled into the valleys of parts of Mineral, Sanders, and Missoula Counties. As the air warms up today, that smoke will lift out of the valleys by this afternoon.


 
The Helena Valley experienced some very thick fog this morning, but since the fog has burned off, we can see what else is in the air. This webcam at the Gates of the Mountains overlooks the Helena Valley and south. Smoke is currently suspended in the air, obstructing long-range visibility, but air quality at the ground remains GOOD.

The Helena Valley experienced some very thick fog this morning, but since the fog has burned off, we can see what else is in the air. This webcam at the Gates of the Mountains overlooks the Helena Valley and south. Smoke is currently suspended in the air, obstructing long-range visibility, but air quality at the ground remains GOOD.


Even though smoke from the West Mullan fire is having a slight effect on the air quality in Missoula, the air looks generally clear.

Even though smoke from the West Mullan fire is having a slight effect on the air quality in Missoula, the air looks generally clear.

Red indicates hot spot detected. Grey represents smoke seen by satellite. Fire size is exaggerated for visibility at this scale. To identify individual fires on graphic above go here: http://activefiremaps.fs.fed.us/lg_fire2.php 




The smoke report below compares particulate levels where information is available to MDEQ’s Health Effects Categories. Real time particulate information is currently available in most of the larger urban areas from several different sources including: DEQ run PM-10 BAMS and PM2.5 BAMS, NWS ASOS visibility monitors, and USFS remote access Nephelometers and BAMS. These advisories represent conditions between midnight and 8 AM and may change substantially throughout the day.

Locations and severity of forest fire smoke reports since midnight of the date above at reporting stations.
Health Effects Categories City
  Hazardous  
  Very Unhealthy  
  Unhealthy  
  Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups  Frenchtown B24, B8 (1-hour averages are GOOD)
  Moderate

 Superior

Missoula B8 (1-hour averages are GOOD)
 

  Good

 Flathead Valley
Libby
Seeley Lake
Butte
Hamilton
Helena
Bozeman
West Yellowstone
Great Falls
Billings
Sidney
 

B1(x) One-hour BAM value (number of values)
B8(x) Eight-hour average BAM
B24 24 hour  average BAM value
Vis(x) Visibility value (number of hours)
Vis(am/pm) Visibility value from twice/day reporting stations

Local impacts in areas immediately adjacent to active fires are expected to exceed some or all of the advisory levels.  DEQ recommends the use of local visibility guidelines to evaluate possible health risks and make informed activity decisions.