Smoke blankets western Montana with fire risk high


HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Air quality in western Montana is suffering as westerly winds carry wildfire smoke in from neighboring states, the Montana Department of Environmental Quality said.

The department predicted air quality will worsen throughout the day Monday as smoke pushes eastward across the state, with air quality in the western part of the state reported very unhealthy or unhealthy.

An air quality alert was issued for 23 of the state’s 56 counties until 9 a.m. Tuesday due to elevated particulate concentrations.

The alert comes as the National Weather Service issued a red flag fire weather warning for large swaths of western Montana on Monday between noon and 9 p.m.

Wind gusts of up to 35 miles per hour (56 kilometres per hour) combined with low humidity and dry fuels could contribute to easy fire starts, with erratic and difficult fire behavior. A northerly wind shift is expected to occur Monday evening, which could create additional fire weather challenges.