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'Unhealthy' air quality in parts of Montana due to wildfire smoke

air quality may 16, 2023
Posted at 8:39 AM, May 17, 2023

GREAT FALLS — Air quality in some parts of Montana is rated as "unhealthy" by the Montana Department of Environmental Quality (link) due to wildfire smoke.

The wildfire smoke is being blown into Montana from dozens of wildfires burning Alberta and British Columbia; there are no large fires burning in Montana.

From the Alberta government: "Hot, dry conditions continue in most areas of the province resulting in numerous wildfires. A provincial state of emergency has been declared."

According to the Edmonton Journal, as of Tuesday morning, there are 87 active wildfires in the province with 24 out of control.

As of Tuesday evening (May 16, 2023), the air quality in and around Cut Bank and Great Falls is listed as "unhealthy" by the DEQ. Air quality in the Helena area is listed as "unhealthy for sensitive groups." The Lewistown area air quality is listed as "moderate."

Here are the six 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.

When air quality is HAZARDOUS, all children and adults should avoid or limit all outdoor exertion.
When air quality is VERY UNHEALTHY, active children and adults, and people with respiratory disease, such as asthma, should avoid all outdoor exertion; everyone else, especially children, should limit outdoor exertion.

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 healthcare provider.

When air quality is UNHEALTHY FOR SENSITIVE GROUPS, people with heart or lung disease, children and the elderly should limit prolonged outdoor exertion. Anyone experiencing symptoms of heart or lung disease associated with smoke exposure should contact their health care provider.

When air quality is MODERATE, unusually sensitive people should consider limiting prolonged outdoor exertion.

When air quality is GOOD, no health impacts are expected when air quality is in this range



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