Montana Smoke Not ‘Bad’ Compared to What’s Happening in Canada
It's a scene more common for September than the start of summer, as regional fire smoke obscures the sun in the Northern Rockies and far east across Montana.
And while we cope with varying air quality problems, and likely will be a couple more days, our neighbors in Canada are struggling with another early fire season that's brought nearly 150 wildfires to life.
That's created a massive amount of smoke that's not only poured into Montana but is covering thousands of square miles across the continent today.
The fires, with as many as 96 are burning northwest of Calgary and across Northern Alberta, are burning over hundreds of miles of the province. And west of the Continental Divide, Northeastern British Columbia is ablaze, causing destruction and forcing communities to evacuate. As many as 20,000 residents in Fort St. John, B.C. were forced from their homes during one flare-up.
And the situation remains dangerous further to the south as well. Many of the communities that were threatened by the 1600 fires that burned during the record-breaking summer of 2021 are also worried now, with temperatures in the B.C. interior soaring to near 100 degrees this week.
The provinces have been posting regular updates through all their channels to explain the intensity of the fires and the challenges in fighting them.
For Montana and the other Northern Tier states, the smoke impacts began Tuesday, when a strong northerly airflow pushed the contaminated air south, setting off heavy rain and lightning.
By Thursday morning, air quality was "moderate" in Missoula, Great Falls, and Havre, but remaining "unhealthy for sensitive groups" in the Flathead, the Kootenai-Cabinet region, and parts of Eastern Montana. Air quality in Miles City was "unhealthy" for everyone as the day began.
While Canadian fire managers are warning it will take "months" to cope with all the fires, there is some relief in site for us. Forecasters expect the winds to shift around to the west this weekend, with a cold front arriving Sunday that should scour out the remaining smoke and cool temperatures.
In the meantime, the smoke will do exactly what it does in September, taking the edge off the forecasted high temperatures for this weekend, depending upon the amount of smoke in your community.