KALISPELL — Poor air quality in the Flathead Valley due to wildfire smoke is causing schools to postpone outdoor athletic events and practices.
Schools officials follow strict guidelines from the Montana High School Association and check air quality levels on an hourly basis to determine what’s okay for outdoor activity.
Flathead County Environmental Health Manager Christine Hughes said the county offers guidance and air quality resources to local schools helping them make outdoor activity decisions.
She said smoke remains in the immediate forecast for the Flathead Valley with cleaner air possibly pushing through this weekend.
“There is supposed to be a front coming through this weekend which may clear out some air and beyond that we really don’t know for next week,” said Hughes.
Columbia Falls High School Athletic Director Troy Bowman said Columbia Falls has had to postpone a number of sporting events and move practices inside this week to due to unhealthy air quality.
Bowman said he relies on visibility and the amount of smoke particulates in the air to determine if outdoor activities can proceed.
“When we get to the middle of that unhealthy for sensitive groups and towards the upper end of that into that unhealthy stage, I kind of use that 65 particulate group on up, we’re more than likely going to move everything inside and probably look at postponing or rescheduling events,” said Bowman.
Bowman said he checks smoke particulate levels frequently on game-days making the final decision a couple hours before kickoff.
Up to date air quality levels for the Flathead Valley can be found online at Montana.gov.