Current Air Quality and Restrictions:
Air quality in the Rattlesnake Valley is Unhealthy.
This message was last updated at 10:00 a.m. on October 17, 2019.
Air quality in the rest of Missoula County is Good to Moderate. If air quality becomes Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups or worse, this web page will be updated. Check the Today's Air website (link in box above) for the most current PM2.5 measurements across the state.
Air Quality: Discussion
October 17, 2019 10:00 AM
We've seen smoke from burns up the Rattlesnake settle into the Rattlesnake Valley overnight, leading to a dense pile up of smoke in that neighborhood and a pervasive campfire smell in northern Missoula. Air quality in the Rattlesnake is currently Unhealthy.
When air quality is Unhealthy, people with heart or lung disease, smokers, children and the elderly should limit heavy or prolonged exertion and limit time spent outdoors. People with asthma should follow their asthma management plan. People experiencing symptoms of heart or lung disease associated with smoke exposure should contact their health care provider.
You can find near-real time data (1-hour delay) for Rattlesnake air quality online here:
The smoke is quite noticeable on the northern end of Missoula but it has not ventured very far into town. Air quality is currently Good at our Boyd Park monitor.
According to the U.S. Forest Service, "The majority of the smoke production appears to be from lateral creeping from previous hand pile burning which occurred last week in the upper Woods Gulch drainage within the Marshall Woods Project." Essentially, yesterday's warm weather woke up the heat in those burned piles and an overnight thermal belt encouraged nighttime burning as the fire creeped through pine litter. The Forest Service has resources on scene to stop further fire spread.
The Forest Service conducted 44 acres of an understory burn in the Marshall Woods project area yesterday, but the majority of that burn's smoke production took place during the day when the smoke had opportunities to lift up and leave the area. It appears the lateral creeping burn that spread from the hand piles burned overnight the fire's smoke was trapped under the inversion. As the inversion breaks and winds move into the area we should see significant improvements.
Happily, there's a cold front headed our way that should help clear out the smoke later this afternoon. It's been a pretty chilly fall, but today, I'm on Team Cold Front!
August 7, 2019 6:00 PM
I've been dragging my feet sending out an air update because we haven't had much in the way of significant smoke impacts in Missoula since Canada came knocking in May. However, there is no denying it's getting hazy out there. We've been seeing some high level smoke from a large fire burning in Washington (the Williams Flats Fire), and it's kept our air quality hovering in the Moderate range for a couple days now. Air quality is currently Moderate in Missoula, Frenchtown and Seeley Lake. Enough smoke recently mixed down into the Seeley Lake valley to push levels close to Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups. However, the atmosphere is still relatively unstable and should stay that way until mixing shuts down later this evening. There's a good chance the smoke in Seeley Lake will lift up out of the valley in the coming hours.
I expect we'll continue to see some Washington smoke until Friday, when our weather goes through a significant pattern change. Until then, we will likely have continued haziness and fluctuating smoke levels.
Starting late Friday and into the weekend, a low pressure system is going to swing through the area and shift our upper level winds to a southwesterly direction. There aren't any large fires directly to our southwest, so we should get a break from out-of-state smoke. There's a chance of thunderstorms Thursday through Saturday, which may lead to additional fire starts throughout the region. The weather system is supposed to drop a significant amount of rain, though, so any new smoke impacts will likely be delayed for a bit.
We're keeping an eye on the smoke and fires and will keep you updated should conditions become Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups or worse. For now, there's some haze to deal with and folks who have pre-existing medical conditions that make them sensitive to smoke may be noticing the increased fine particulate matter hanging out in the area. If you are experiencing smoke-related symptoms, follow your medical plan and avoid outdoor exertion. Also, it's a great idea for everyone to make a cleaner air room in their home. I have information about creating cleaner indoor air spaces on my smoke-ready blog website: https://www.missoulacounty.us/government/health/health-department/home-environment/air-quality/wildfire-smoke-resources-and-blog
A quick heads up: In a week or two, the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forest may begin their summer prescribed burns. They have the potential to send smoke our way (sometimes they do, sometimes they don't), but we don't yet know the ignition date or what the smoke forecasts look like. I'll keep you posted as the dates draw nearer.
So far, the Beeskove Fire has kept most of its smoke out of the Missoula valley. If the incident management team needs to light a backfire to slow its progress in the coming weeks, that could result in smoke making its way into the Rattlesnake neighborhood and possibly into town. Should a backfire be necessary and conditions look like smoke will head our way, I'll give you a heads up so you can plan for smoke.
Also! Those of you in the Rattlesnake who are wondering what your air quality is like so close to the fire, the Forest Service set up a handy dandy portable air monitor in the neighborhood. You can access near real-time data from that monitor as well as our permanent monitors here: https://tools.airfire.org/monitoring/v4/#!/?category=PM2.5_nowcast¢erlat=46.9428¢erlon=-113.6893&zoom=9
Note that Montana's Today's Air website has more current particulate concentrations for our permanent monitors here: http://svc.mt.gov/deq/todaysair/AirDataMap.aspx. The Forest Service website is about an hour behind Today's Air. But hey! Data!! Everything is better with data!
Smoke from the Williams Flats Fire is stretching across Western Montana and giving us hazy skies.
July 26, 2019
We've moved the wildfire smoke-ready blog to its own page! You can find handy downloads and some blogs about creating cleaner indoor air spaces at our Smoke-Ready Resources and Blog page.
This web page is not updated on weekends or holidays unless air quality becomes Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups or worse. Call the air quality hotline at 258-3600 on weekends to get the most current air quality update.
If you operate a woodstove, fireplace or other solid-fuel burning device, you will want to get in the habit of checking this web page or the Air Quality hotline (258-3600) for up-to-date changes in Missoula's air quality. Woodstoves, fireplaces and other solid-fuel burning devices are restricted during alerts and warnings.