Wildfire Smoke Updates Home | Archived Wildfire Smoke Updates | Today's Air

Wildfire Smoke Update
for
Tuesday, August 14, 2018 9:45 AM

Satellite Photos | Locations and Smoke Conditions


Today's Report and Forecast Today's Summary
Northwest Montana is seeing the most significant air quality impacts today due to a combination of nearby fires and a large amount of smoke transported in from Idaho, Washington, and British Columbia. An air quality alert has been issued for Flathead, Lincoln, and Sanders counties due to the smoke. Air quality in Libby and Thompson Falls is currently UNHEALTHY while air quality in Columbia Falls and Kalispell is currently UNHEALTHY FOR SENSITIVE GROUPS. Elsewhere, skies are hazy but most of the smoke is remaining above ground level, resulting in widespread MODERATE impacts. The cause of the widespread smoke is the significant fire activity along the west coast and British Columbia. A cluster of fires in northwest Montana and the Idaho Panhandle are contributing to ground level smoke, making conditions worse in that area than the rest of the state. Hamilton, Butte, and Sidney are the bright spots this morning, with all reporting GOOD air quality.

Forecast
It doesn’t look like we will see much improvement this week, with another ridge of high pressure expected to build into the region later today that will remain in place through the end of the week. This ridge will not be as strong as the ridge that brought the oppressive heat last week. However, it will still act to trap smoke over the region, especially in northwest Montana. Fires are expected to remain active throughout this period, with smoke settling into northwest Montana valleys each night due to the stable conditions. We may see a dry thunderstorm roll through on Thursday, increasing fire danger. More widespread showers and thunderstorms are possible beginning Friday and lasting through the weekend. There is a chance we may see a substantial rain event this weekend. If that is the case, we may see a break from the smoke for at least a little while.

Overall, expect widespread haze and MODERATE air quality across the state this week, possibly becoming UNHEALTHY FOR SENSITIVE GROUPS toward the end of the week. In Northwest Montana, expect the more significant impacts, ranging from UNHEALTHY FOR SENSITIVE GROUPS to UNHEALTHY, to continue. Expect the worst levels to occur overnight and early in the morning, with improvement each afternoon as the inversions lift.

Fires
Northwest Montana:
The Davis fire, near Yaak, is currently 5,479 acres and 5% contained.
The Tenmile fire is 680 acres and 70% contained and the nearby Sterling Complex, near Eureka, is 761 acres and 0% contained.
The Garden Creek fire is 2,573 acres and 20% contained.
The Brownstone fire, in the Bob Marshall wilderness, is 1,084 acres.
The Cougar fire, over the border in Idaho, is 3,600 acres and 23% contained.
The Surprise Creek fire, also in the Idaho Panhandle, is 1,600 acres.
In Glacier National Park, the Howe Ridge fire is currently 1,500 acres.
The Rampike fire, also in the Idaho Panhandle, is 1,100 acres.

In the rest of the state:
The Shellrock fire, near Helena, is 300 acres and 0% contained with active fire behavior.
The Wigwan fire, near Ennis is 1,970 acres and 0% contained. The nearby Monument fire is 4,218 acres.
The Goldstone fire, on the border with Idaho near Jackson, MT, is 3,769 acres.
The Cabin fire, near Hardin, is currently 200 acres and 0% contained.

Along the west coast, the fires in Washington, Oregon, and California continue to show significant growth each day, sending smoke up into Montana and adding to our smoke. In Washington, the Cougar Creek fire grew another 4,504 acres yesterday, and is now 29,723 acres. The Rabbit Foot fire in central Idaho is 23,008 acres.
Air Quality Alert The Montana Department of Environmental Quality has issued an air quality alert for Flathead, Lincoln, and Sanders counties in effect until 8AM on 8/16/2018 due to smoke from wildfires in northwest Montana, Idaho, Washington, and British Columbia.

An Air Quality Alert means that particulates have been trending upwards and that an exceedence of the 24 hour National Ambient Air Quality Standard (NAAQS) has occurred or may occur in the near future.

Particulate levels are ranging between Unhealthy and Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups in northwest Montana.

When air quality is UNHEALTHY... State and local health officials recommend that people with respiratory or heart disease, the elderly, and children should avoid prolonged exertion; everyone else should limit prolonged exertion.

When air quality is UNHEALTHY FOR SENSITIVE GROUPS... State and local health officials recommend that people with respiratory or heart disease, the
elderly and children should limit prolonged exertion.


Summary

Smoke from regional fires is causing widespread hazy skies but only MODERATE air quality in most of Montana today as the smoke stays above ground level. A cluster of fires in Northwest Montana and the Idaho Panhandle are causing more significant impacts in northwest Montana. Air quality is currently ranging from UNHEALTHY FOR SENSITIVE GROUPS to UNHEALTHY, prompting an air quality alert in that region. Conditions are not expected to improve much for the rest of the week, with an area of high pressure building in, trapping smoke over our area through Friday morning. There is potential for improvement over the weekend, when we may see more widespread showers decrease fire activity and improve air quality.
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.

Air Quality Bureau
Montana Department of Environmental Quality
Phone: (406) 444-3490
Email: DEQMTSmoke@mt.gov




Northwest Montana is getting hit the hardest by smoke today, due to nearby fires. 

Northwest Montana is getting hit the hardest by smoke today, due to nearby fires.
Source: CIRA and NOAA. These data are preliminary and not operational.

 
Current active fire locations are shown below.

Current active fire locations are shown below.
Source: USFS

Yesterday's satellite smoke analysis shows smoke over all of Montana.

Yesterday's satellite smoke analysis shows smoke over all of Montana.

Source: NOAA 

Visibility is reduced in Eureka today due to nearby fires.

Visibility is reduced in Eureka today due to nearby fires.
Source: Weather Underground

Real time particulate information is currently available in most of the larger urban areas from MTDEQ's Today's Air website.

Today's particulate report below compares particulate levels received from DEQ's
reporting stations with MTDEQ’s Health Effect Categories.

Locations and severity of PM 2.5 particulate values over the past 24 hours from the time above.
Health Effects Categories City
  Hazardous  
  Very Unhealthy  
  Unhealthy  Libby
Thompson Falls
  Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups  Columbia Falls
  Moderate

 Billings
Birney
Bozeman
Broadus
Frenchtown
Great Falls
Helena
Lewistown
Missoula
Seeley Lake
West Yellowstone
 

  Good

 Butte
Hamilton
Sidney
 

B1(x) One-hour BAM value (number of values)
B8(x) Eight-hour average BAM
B24 24 hour  average BAM value
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.