NewsWildfire Watch


Staying safe and aware in the smoky air

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Posted at 6:09 PM, Jul 15, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-16 12:00:18-04

Smoke clouds the Bridger Mountains, a stark difference from the blue sky of yesterday. As the Goose Fire south of Ennis continues to burn, along with Western fires from neighboring counties and states, the smoke travels and settles around Bozeman.

Gallatin County and the greater state of Montana are no strangers to fire season and smoke—but smoke in July?

“We got an early start to wildfire season, at least in Montana. We’ve had a smokier July than last year,” Katie Alexander said.

Katie Alexander is the Air Quality Meteorologist for the Montana Department of Environmental Quality in Helena. She says out-of-state fires have impacted the quality of Montana’s air, as well as those in the local area. With that being said, it’s hard to pinpoint what specific fire, area, or state is producing the smoke we see today.

“So much smoke that is blanketing the whole area, it is harder to see those localized impacts,” Alexander said.

The smoke is here, but who needs to take this warning a bit more seriously? BJ Biskupick is the program manager for the Asthma Control Program and notes that although some people have no reaction to the smoke, some need to take caution.

“Older adults, children, women who are pregnant, and people with heart or lung disease are more vulnerable to the adverse health effects to the air pollution from wildfires,” Biskupick said.

Simply being older or younger does not implicitly make you susceptible to the smoke in the air. Lifestyle factors play a large role, says Dr. Michael DiCello from the Allergy & Asthma Consultants of Montana, located in Bozeman.

DiCello referenced an individual who has smoked for years. They may have developed COPD, thus more at risk to have adverse effects from the smoke. A younger person, on the other hand, would not have this worry as they head outside.

When heading outside, be sure to be aware of the air quality by checking out resources such as the KBZK Stormtracker Weather app, or the "Today’s Air" website. Fitness, such as hiking, can wait until after the air is at a healthy level, DiCello said.