MISSOULA -- A beautiful sunny weekend in Missoula was somewhat clouded by smoky skies.
Particulate concentrations have risen above background levels at all Missoula County monitors, Missoula City-County Health Department air quality specialist Sarah Coefield said in a news release, although air quality in the Missoula Valley is good to moderate.
That's despite smoke from fires in Idaho and Washington finding their way to the Bitterroot and Missoula valleys. Haze, however, "generally looks worse than it is," Coefield said.
"We are more concerned about the smoke when it reaches the ground than when it is high overhead," she said.
Over the past several days, Idaho's nearly 500-acre Cedar fire, which is burning in the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness southwest of Missoula, has sent up smoke plumes visible across the Bitterroot and Missoula valleys.
"Fortunately, we haven't seen very much smoke from that fire mixing down into our breathing space," Coefield said.
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She pointed out, however, that the Cedar fire "is being monitored rather than actively suppressed" due to its remote location in the SBW, so it will likely be an ongoing issue in Missoula.
Haze and a smoky smell throughout the region are coming from the Cedar fire as well as some large fires in Sunnyside, Washington, and Yakima and Benton counties. Satellite photos from Sunday morning showed smoke stretching from Washington to Missoula County.
A dry cold front moving through the area in Sunday's forecast meant afternoon winds should keep most of the smoke from getting caught in the valleys, she said.
"However, as the fires west and southwest of us continue to grow, we can expect the prevailing winds to continue to deliver smoke to our area," she said.
Frenchtown and Seeley Lake are seeing more of the smoke from the out-of-state wildfires than the Missoula Valley, though their air quality is still good to moderate.