Air Quality

Emilie Ritter Saunders / Boise State Public Radio

Smoke from wildfires in Idaho and neighboring states made the air so bad this week, officials declared a statewide air quality advisory. At times, the smoke brought down visibility to less than a mile and lowered air quality to the purple level – very unhealthy.


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Idaho's largest wildfire is burning entirely within a rugged central Idaho wilderness area and being allowed to play its natural role.

Officials on Wednesday say the 110-square-mile wildfire in the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness is burning grass and brush in lower areas and ponderosa pine and Douglas fir at higher elevations.

Officials say they have plans in place to protect bridges, a ranch, a guard station and other high-value sites that could be threatened.

The backcountry Chamberlain Airstrip remains closed due to the lightning-caused fire.

Samantha Wright / Boise State Public Radio

The entire state of Idaho is under an air quality advisory - thanks to smoke from wildfires – for the first time since August of 2015.


Matt Guilhem / Boise State Public Radio

A murky, smoky haze hung over the Treasure Valley throughout the weekend limiting visibility and wrecking air quality. The dense cloud hid the foothills and added a yellowish cast to the hot summer sun. Smoke from fires in neighboring states is parking itself over Idaho and cooking into noxious fog.

A recycling center fire that on Monday pushed air quality in Boise to unhealthy for sensitive groups is contained but will likely continue to smolder for several days.

Boise Fire Department officials say the fire that's about the size of a city block is burning wood debris in a large pit at Diamond Street Recycling.

Authorities say the fire started for unknown reasons at about 2:30 p.m. Sunday at the facility near the Boise Airport.

Tom Banse / Northwest News Network

The smoke blanketing Boise from the Walker Fire near Idaho City eased up Wednesday but was still bad enough for the Boise School District to cancel outdoor activities like football games and tennis matches.

Someone flying into Boise Tuesday shared the pictures above with KBSX. Much of the valley floor is invisible under a gray/brown haze. 

Boise's Table Rock was a dim outline at about 9:00 Tuesday morning. It was a little clearer around the same time Wednesday morning from outside our studios.

NASA/Jeff Schmaltz

Monday's crisp and clear air is a welcome relief after weeks of wildfire smoke fumigated valleys around Idaho. The real-time monitor from the Department of Environmental Quality shows just how much things have improved, even in places where fires are still raging.

The Idaho Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) issued an alert Monday declaring air quality unhealthy again in the Treasure Valley. The agency issued a similar alert last Thursday.  

If your shortness of breath is giving you déjà vu, you’re not alone. This summer's smoke and wildfires are approaching the numbers put up in the summers of 2007, 2012 and 2013.

Nicholas D. / Flickr

Smoke from wildfires continues to plague the Treasure Valley. Forecasters say things will get worse before they get better.

Winds are out of the northwest Friday and expected to be again Saturday. That will actually bring more smoke into the Treasure Valley.

Valerie Mills is a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Boise.

U.S. Forest Service

Smoky skies, from dozens of western wildfires, have prompted the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality to issue an air quality advisory for the entire state of Idaho.

Such advisories are typically issued for individual counties or cities.

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Forest Service researchers are taking a closer look at how wildfire smoke impacts the people most exposed to it. A five-year study will monitor the carbon monoxide levels of firefighters around the country.

IcaWise / Flickr Creative Commons

The Environmental Protection Agency is expected to release updated air quality standards for the Treasure Valley in the next two months.

The Idaho Statesman reports the Treasure Valley includes Boise, and Idaho Department of Environmental Quality regional air quality monitoring coordinator Mike Toole says ground-level ozone pollution in the area typically hits below the current standard of 75 parts per billion.

That standard is expected to decrease, but officials are unsure by how much.

National Weather Service

The air quality in the Treasure Valley has dropped from good to moderate, thanks to a change in winds that’s bringing in smoke from the south. The National Weather Service in Boise reports the sudden influx of smoke into Idaho is due to a change in the wind pattern.

The EPA has given the state of Idaho notice that a corner of the Idaho panhandle isn't meeting stricter new air quality standards. The agency intends to change that by forcing the state to reduce what are called “fine particulates” in the air.

As Boise Is Surrounded By Wildfires, Smoke Could Be Here For Weeks

Jul 17, 2014
Emilie Ritter Saunders / Boise State Public Radio

Smoke is settling in the Treasure Valley from wildfires burning in Idaho, Oregon, Washington and Canada. The Idaho Department of Environmental Quality is forecasting moderate to unhealthy air conditions for the next couple of days. 

"We’ll see higher levels in the early morning hours and before lunch," says DEQ's Michael Toole, "and hopefully if that pattern continues, we’ll see clearing in the afternoons which will give us some relief."

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