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Smoke and fire danger lead to dangerous conditions in Flathead Valley

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Posted at 6:05 PM, Sep 14, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-14 20:42:21-04

KALISPELL — Air Quality levels in the Flathead Valley are currently unhealthy due to smoke from wildfires in California and the Pacific Northwest.

Smoke combined with very high fire danger could lead to dangerous conditions in the Flathead Valley.

Flathead County Fire Area Manger Lincoln Chute said fire danger is "Very High" in Flathead County with fuels being dry and susceptible to rapid fire spread once ignited.

Chute said the smoke causes extra headaches for fire personnel who won’t be able to fly fixed-wing aircraft's to spot new wildfires.

“If a small fire starts we might not be able to catch it when it’s small, it would have to put up enough smoke for somebody to see it before we know about it and be able to go attack it, so it’s probably going to have a delayed response,” said Chute.

Chute tells MTN News planes will have trouble deploying fire retardant on new wildfires under current smoke conditions.

“You know it’s just another tool that’s taken away from us,” said Chute.

Chute asks Flathead residents to completely drown out campfires and to be aware of ignition sparks due to dragging chains or discarded cigarette butts.

“We’re not going to be able to spot the fires as well as we’re able to do sometimes, so we’re going to really need the public’s help to make sure that we don’t have any human caused starts,” said Chute.

Chute expects unhealthy air quality to remain in the Flathead Valley for several days.

Open burning is prohibited in Flathead County through the end of September.