Missoula
57° F
Mostly Cloudy
Mostly Cloudy
Kalispell
55° F
Partly Cloudy
Partly Cloudy
Bozeman
56° F
Clear
Clear
Advertisement

Wildfire smoke affects air quality in Southwest Montana

By Grace Ditzler, KTVM Reporter, gditzler@ktvm.com
Published On: Aug 22 2013 06:27:46 PM MDT
Updated On: Aug 22 2013 06:56:25 PM MDT
BUTTE, Mont. -

Wildfires across the region are impacting air quality.

Most recent reports show air quality is "good" across the board in West Yellowstone.

Short-term exposure is listed as "good" in Butte and in Bozeman. But in the long-term, between 8 and 24 hours is listed between "moderate" and "unhealthy for sensitive groups."

Paul Riley works for the Butte-Silver Bow Health Department. It's his job to follow air quality in the Mining City.

He explained that so far this season, folks in Butte have been pretty lucky.

"We had a couple hours yesterday where it got into the moderate category," Riley explained, "but for the most part it's been pretty good."

He explained that folks really need to watch when air quality reaches "unhealthy for sensitive groups," mostly people who might have asthma, young children, or the elderly.

All the way to "hazardous" air quality, when everyone should avoid outdoor activity.

"Living at 5,600 feet is as difficult as it is," Riley said, "and throwing smoke into it makes it that much more difficult."

Despite the hazy skies, the air quality in Butte is considered "good" on Thursday, but experts at the Health Department said that could change in a matter of hours.

"We know what to watch for and we will be vigilant on making sure our residents are taken care of," said Marti Burke, the Assistant Director of Nursing at Crest Nursing Home.

Burke said they pay close attention to each patients' conditions and watch for signs of change.

"it aggravates your elderly because they have chronic conditions, such as lung disease, so that would just be exacerbated," she explained. "If the fires continue to burn and the winds shift, and we have all the smoke just sitting here, we could have an increase."

The Health Department also explained you can often tell the quality of the air by the visibility. If you can see thirteen or more miles in the distance, it is considered "good."

In contrast, in "hazardous" conditions, visibility is as little as 1.3 miles.