Wildfire Smoke Travels Thousands of Miles, Settles in LC Valley


With wildfires in Idaho, Washington, and even Canada, our air quality has visibly declined.

Thursday the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality issued an air quality caution for Clearwater, Idaho, Latah, Lewis, and Nez Perce counties.

Air quality was listed as moderate on Thursday and wasn't expected to get better any time soon.

If the smoky skies were any indication, we're officially in wildfire season.

Melissa Rhein, an air quality analyst with the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality, says multiple wildfires are contributing to our poor air quality.

Melissa Rhein says, "I would say the majority of the smoke we're seeing in Washington and Idaho is actually smoke coming from Canada."

Rhein says smoke can actually travel thousands of miles.

Moving between high and low pressure systems, the wind pushed in smoke from multiple directions. It gets trapped in river corridors, like the Lewis-Clark Valley, thanks to geography and science.

Melissa Rhein says, "The cold air that is attributed to the river, it keeps it trapped. We have this layer called an inversion that will trap in those pollutants."

When air quality is in the moderate category, the DEQ recommends the very young and the elderly, or anyone with respiratory or heart conditions, limit their time outdoors.

Melissa Rhein says, "If you have an air conditioning system you can put on recycle whether you're in your home or in your car."

The good news is wildfire season doesn't last forever, so that smoke will eventually clear out.

The bad news...not anytime soon.

Melissa Rhein says, "We see that staying through the weekend, so no improvement Saturday or Sunday. We're hoping that on Monday the wind directions will change and start pushing some of that smoke out of our area."

The DEQ monitors forecasts and watches wildfires, but they say air quality could actually decrease depending on if those conditions get worse.

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