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Experts warn of unhealthy air quality in Butte as wildfire activity increases

air quality butte .jpg
Posted at 5:10 PM, Jul 14, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-15 09:06:32-04

BUTTE — Health Officials in Butte expect that air quality is going to be a major problem as wildfire activity increases in the state and the region.

“If it starts this early, I mean, they usually end where high humidity starts happening and things like that, so mid-September to the end of September, so we have a couple of tough months ahead of us I think,” said John Rolich of the Butte Health Department.

Smoke from wildfires can quickly settle into the valley depending on the wind direction and the air can cause health problems to the vulnerable.

“The people who have chronic illnesses, the elderly and the very young are more susceptible to any air quality issues,” said Rolich.

Experts believe air quality will continue to be an issue into the future with longer, hotter summers and more wildfires. They are forming a group to better inform the public about air quality issues.

“We have to tackle the problem of high temperature, potential more fire, more flooding, you know, those are all happening. It’s not coming, it’s here,” said Kumar Ganesan, the head of Environmental Engineering at Montana Tech.

There’s a way that people living in Butte can judge the air quality by just using their eyes and Butte’s geography. If you look to the south and can’t see the Highland Mountains then you know the air quality is poor, but if you look to the east and can’t see the East Ridge mountains then you know the air quality is extremely poor and you have to take precaution.

“This is really being aware of the situation because air quality during forest fire season can change dramatically in 20 minutes depending on the location of the fire and also the direction of the wind,” said Rolich.

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