Smoke chokes Park County

But new weather system should improve conditions for now
Monday, August 20, 2018

Enterprise photo by Dwight Harriman

The setting sun struggles to poke through a think blanket of smoke hanging over the Star Addition/Northern Lights subdivision in northwestern Livingston, Sunday evening.

The dense pall of wildfire smoke that settled in Paradise Valley and reduced the Absaroka and Crazy Mountains to dim outlines is on its way out, according to the Montana Department of Environmental Quality.

Northeasterly and easterly winds today began to push the smoke to the west, and air quality in the Livingston area has improved from “unhealthy” to “unhealthy for sensitive groups,” said DEQ Meteorologist Kristen Martin.

The DEQ is expecting improvements throughout the day and in the coming days, said Martin.

On Saturday, a shift to northerly winds dragged smoke down from big wildfires burning in British Columbia, Canada “over pretty much the entire state,” she said. Fires in Washington and Northwestern Montana also contributed to the haze.

The smoke hit the eastern part of Montana early Sunday. The DEQ monitoring station in Bozeman, the closest to Livingston, recorded a dramatic spike in the level of particulate matter in the air between 2 a.m. and 10 a.m. that morning, from 21.5 to 83.0 micrograms of particulates per cubic meter of air.

On Sunday, the DEQ issued an air quality warning for the entire state, but the warning has been lifted for Park County and much of eastern Montana, according to Martin.

Expected rain showers will also reduce the haze, if only temporarily, she said.

Western Montana will likely continue to see degraded air quality and low visibility due to smoke from wildfires burning in that area, Martin said, including the 7,835-acre Howe Ridge Fire in Glacier National Park, the 2,214-acre Brownstone Fire in the Bob Marshall Wilderness, and several medium-sized fires burning in the Idaho panhandle.

According to the DEQ, in “unhealthy” air conditions, everyone should limit outdoor exertion. Active children and adults and people with respiratory diseases such as asthma should avoid it all together, and under air conditions rated as “unhealthy for sensitive groups,” people in that category should limit it.