Where There’s Fire, There’s Smoke

Missoula, Mont. - As wildfires continue to burn across the western United States and Canada, the inevitable by-product—smoke—of those fires continues to clog our blue skies. Smoke is natural consequence of wildland fires, but it can pose a potential risk to health, visibility, safety, and general nuisance problems. 

Although smoke mitigation is considered in wildfire management tactics, many of the factors that create the smoky skies are beyond fire managers’ control, including topography, fuel accumulations where the fire is burning, and weather conditions. During long duration or high impact smoky wildfires, fire managers may request an Air Resource Advisor to assist in addressing public concerns and help coordinate an interagency effort to reduce public exposure to smoke. Also, fire managers may choose to order air monitoring stations for specific communities near a wildfire, to get real-time updates on air quality levels.

When heavy smoke is present, those who are more vulnerable should take precautions such as staying inside and avoiding prolonged outside activity to minimize direct exposure to the smoke. If neither of those options work, the individual should contact their health care provider for further recommendations. Smoke conditions and air quality levels can change often. It’s important that people recognize the potential for smoke to impact their daily activities, and make contingency plans if heavy smoke occurs. 

For current and predicted air quality levels, people can visit their county health department, or any of the following websites: 

Smoke can also reduce visibility on roadways, so drivers should exercise extreme caution when driving in smoky, low visibility conditions. 

For updates on wildfires in, or near your community, visit Inciweb at https://inciweb.nwcg.gov/