MISSOULA — As smoke from massive California wildfires continues to invade western Montana, air quality continues to take a hit.
“Our conditions in Missoula County are in the upper limits of moderate and occasionally tipping over to unhealthy for sensitive groups," Missoula City County air quality specialist, Sarah Coefield, said.
The designation of “unhealthy for sensitive groups” impacts a larger segment of the population than many realize according to Coefield.
“It includes children, includes the elderly, it’s anyone with heart or lung disease, it’s people with diabetes, it’s people who are pregnant," Coefield said. "It’s a pretty significant portion of our population.”
It would seem that the best answer on how to avoid excessive wildfire smoke inhalation would be to stay indoors. However, Coefield says that smoke will find its way into your home.
She says it’s important to be proactive when keeping your home as smoke-free as possible.
“You can create cleaner indoor spaces on a room-by-room basis with a portable air cleaner with a true hepa-filter in it or you can make your own air cleaner using a box fan and a furnace filter," Coefield explained.
She adds it’s important to do your homework to make sure you have the right type of filter. If you have to spend time outdoors, Coefield suggests taking it easy and avoid heavy exertion.
And, if you think wearing your cloth mask outdoors will keep those unhealthy air particulates out, guess again.
“These are not designed to prevent you from inhaling smoke, so keep using them, but don’t use them expecting them to protect you from wildfire smoke," Coefield said.
Right now it appears we have about another 24-to-48 hours of smoky air conditions before air quality begins to improve later in the week.