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Wildfire smoke causes air quality to drop in parts of Western Montana

By Scott Zoltan, KECI Reporter, szoltan@keci.com
Published On: Jul 18 2013 07:45:02 PM MDT

Wildfire smoke from the West Mullan Fire has been impacting the air quality in parts of Western Montana, including Frenchtown, where the air quality rating dipped to “Moderate to Unhealthy For Sensitive Groups.” That means folks with heart or lung problems may have experienced problems if they were outside for extended periods of time.

On Thursday, Benjamin Schmidt, an air quality specialist for the Missoula City-County Health Department, showed NBC Montana the air quality measurement station in Frenchtown. The department also runs stations in Seeley Lake and Missoula.

The station incorporates a system that pulls air from the top, down through a tube system. The system separates particulates from the air, and these days, that means a lot of wood smoke. The system takes samples in increments of an hour, and analyzes the density of the sample. The information is then dispersed to area health officials, and online.

“It allows us to put out health advisories, so people can take appropriate measures for themselves,” said Schmidt.