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Smoke knocks Rattlesnake air quality to "unhealthy"

Posted at 11:10 AM, Oct 17, 2019
and last updated 2019-10-18 15:03:24-04

Smoke from a prescribed burn settled into the Rattlesnake Valley overnight knocking down air quality and sending a campfire smell in northern Missoula.

The air quality in the Rattlesnake was listed as “Unhealthy” as of 11 a.m. on Thursday. When air quality is Unhealthy, people with heart or lung disease, smokers, children and the elderly should limit heavy or prolonged exertion and limit time spent outdoors.

People with asthma should follow their asthma management plan. People experiencing symptoms of heart or lung disease associated with smoke exposure should contact their health care provider.

Missoula City-County Health Department Air Quality specialist Sarah Coefield notes that the smoke is quite noticeable on the northern end of Missoula but it has not ventured very far into town.

According to the U.S. Forest Service, "the majority of the smoke production appears to be from lateral creeping from previous hand pile burning which occurred last week in the upper Woods Gulch drainage within the Marshall Woods Project."

Coefield says that Wednesday’s warm weather “woke up the heat in those burned piles and an overnight thermal belt encouraged nighttime burning as the fire creeped through pine litter.”

The USFS conducted 44 acres of an understory burn in the Marshall Woods project area Wednesday, but Coefield says most of that burn's smoke production took place during the day when the smoke could lift up and leave the area.

A cold front expected should help clear out the smoke later Thursday afternoon, according to Coefield.