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Wildfire Smoke Update
for
Tuesday, June 26, 2012 1:30 PM

Satellite Photos | Locations and Smoke Conditions


Today's Report and Forecast Today's Summary
UPDATE: Cold front pushed through Helena shortly after noon and winds have gusted over 50 mph, sustained over 30 mph from the west. The Corral fire in the Scratchgravels has re-intensified and smoke is blowing through the Helena Valley. Air quality in the path of the smoke is UNHEALTHY, but mostly GOOD everywhere else. Strong frontal winds will likely have a similar effect on the fires in southwest Montana, and receptors downwind will stay UNHEALTHY FOR SENSITIVE GROUPS until fires die down overnight.

EARLIER TODAY: Shortly after 4:00 PM yesterday, a wildland fire in the Helena Valley, specifically in the Scratchgravel Hills, quickly intensified and spread. At the start of the fire, strong southwest winds were carrying the smoke plume across the north valley and over the Big Belt Mountains, combining with a large smoke plume from fires in southwest Montana. By sunset, the combined plume had reached across the Canadian border, passing over Great Falls and parts of the hi-line, between Shelby and Havre. As the evening progressed, the wind changed direction, coming mostly from the northwest, as the plume started to lie down in the valley.

Based on visibility guidelines, air quality in the valley as of late this morning is MODERATE. Similar air quality conditions are seen between Butte and Bozeman, where three wildfires continue to burn. Smoke from nearby states and the Central Plains has blown into eastern Montana, causing some haze and some regions of MODERATE particulate concentrations.

A cold front is making its way across the state today, bringing cooler temperatures but very strong winds as well. Winds are already gusting from the west over 20 mph in parts of western and northwestern Montana, temperatures are dropping, and rain is staying west of the Divide. Most of the precipitation is expected to stay west of the Divide and just east of the northern Rocky Mountain Front. The cold front will stretch from Helena to Bozeman to Great Falls shortly after noon. Eastern Montana will heat up again today as the cold front is not expected until this evening there. Red Flag Warnings remain in effect for southwestern and south-central Montana until 9:00 tonight, and for eastern and southeastern Montana until midnight. By Wednesday, fire concerns will diminish as temperatures fall below normal and relative humidities increase. The cold front today will also help to clear out existing smoke to improve air quality to GOOD in most locations.
A wildfire in the Helena Valley ignited late yesterday afternoon, putting more smoke into the air around Helena, Great Falls, and parts of the hi-line. Three other wildfires continue to burn between Butte and Bozeman, and smoke plumes have taken a similar southwest-to-northeast trajectory. Air quality in these locations is GOOD to MODERATE. Parts of eastern Montana have also seen GOOD to MODERATE air due to fires in nearby states. A cold front will pass east across the state today, bringing strong winds this afternoon and cooler temperatures for Wednesday. Red Flag Warnings are in effect for southwest and south-central Montana until 9:00 tonight, and for eastern and southeastern Montana until midnight. By Wednesday, cooler temperatures and higher humidity will ease fire danger.
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




This is a visible satellite image from around 10:30 this morning. Smoke plumes are not visible yet, but the heavy cloud cover across the northwest shows the approximate location of the cold front.  

This is a visible satellite image from around 10:30 this morning. Smoke plumes are not visible yet, but the heavy cloud cover across the northwest shows the approximate location of the cold front.


 
This is a visible satellite image from 7:45 last night, June 25. The outlined region is smoke (and some clouds) from approximately four wildfires that flared up and burned on Monday.

This is a visible satellite image from 7:45 last night, June 25. The outlined region is smoke (and some clouds) from approximately four wildfires that flared up and burned on Monday.


This morning’s analysis from NOAA’s satellite services division shows the active fires in Montana and the smoke plumes combining and spreading downwind. The analyzed smoke and fire detects are based on yesterday's (Monday, the 25th) satellite coverage.

This morning’s analysis from NOAA’s satellite services division shows the active fires in Montana and the smoke plumes combining and spreading downwind. The analyzed smoke and fire detects are based on yesterday's (Monday, the 25th) satellite coverage.

Red indicates hot spot detected. Green represents light smoke, yellow is moderately dense smoke, and pink is dense smoke. 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 

This webcam faces north across the Helena Valley, and you can see that the Corral fire in the Scratchgravels has re-intensified due to very strong winds. Receptors downwind are subject to dense smoke and very poor air quality through this evening.

This webcam faces north across the Helena Valley, and you can see that the Corral fire in the Scratchgravels has re-intensified due to very strong winds. Receptors downwind are subject to dense smoke and very poor air quality through this evening.

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  Helena, downwind of Corral Fire
  Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups  Locations downwind of fires bewtween Butte and Bozeman
  Moderate

 Sidney
Eastern Montana
 

  Good

 All other locations 

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.