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.
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.
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.
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.