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Air quality takes a hit in parts of Montana

air quality color codes
Posted at 9:03 AM, May 13, 2024
and last updated 2024-05-13 11:03:10-04

GREAT FALLS — If you've taken a look outside on this Sunday, you likely realized that visibility is rather limited in and around Great Falls and other communities across Montana.

The National Weather Service says it is due to smoke from wildfires in Canada.

CBS News reports that a fire in northeastern British Columbia has burned about about 4,200 acres west of the community of Fort Nelson. Authorities in Alberta also issued an alert about a wildfire southwest of Fort McMurray.

As of 11 a.m. on Sunday, May 12, 2024, the Montana Department of Environmental Quality says that air quality is rated as "unhealthy" in some areas, including Cut Bank, Havre, Malta, Sidney, and Glendive.

The DEQ reports that air quality in and around Great Falls is currently rated as "unhealthy for sensitive groups."

Air quality in Lewistown and Seeley Lake is currently listed as "moderate" by the DEQ.

Here are the color-coded classifications of air quality:

  • MAROON: Hazardous - Health warning of emergency conditions: everyone is more likely to be affected.
  • PURPLE: Very Unhealthy - health alert - the risk of health effects is increased for everyone.
  • RED: Unhealthy - some members of the general public may experience health effects; members of sensitive groups may experience more serious health effects.
  • ORANGE: Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups - members of sensitive groups may experience health effects. The general public is less likely to be affected.
  • YELLOW: Moderate - air quality is acceptable. However, there may be a risk for some people, particularly those who are unusually sensitive to air pollution.
  • GREEN: Good - air quality is satisfactory, and air pollution poses little or no risk.

On days when the air quality is forecast to be unhealthy you can take steps to reduce your exposure, including:

  • Choose a less intense activity.
  • Shorten your outdoor activities.
  • Reschedule activities.
  • Exercise away from busy roads.

When particle levels are high outdoors, they can be high indoors too. So how do you keep particles lower indoors?

  • Reduce your use of fireplaces and wood stoves.
  • Don’t use candles or smoke indoors.
  • Use HEPA air filters in your HVAC system.
  • Buy or make your own portable air cleaner designed to reduce particles indoors.
  • If you don't have an air conditioner, staying inside with the windows closed may be dangerous in extremely hot weather.
  • If you are hot, go someplace with air conditioning or check with your local government to find out if cooling centers are available in your community.

There are no major wildfires in Montana at this time.