Air Quality

Annual preparations for wildfire smoke impacts can help Montana residents mitigate the effect of wildfire smoke on their health and daily routines. These steps include talking to their health care provider about their health risk, taking steps to keep their indoor air cleaner, sharing existing cleaner air spaces in their homes with neighbors, and limiting outdoor activity when air quality is poor.   

Indoor Air

Indoor air quality can have a significant effect on your health. Studies show that people spend 65 to 90 percent of their time indoors, and indoor air can be two to five times more polluted than outdoor air. The young, elderly, chronically ill, and those with respiratory or cardiovascular disease are often the most impacted by poor indoor air quality.

Outdoor Air

Having good outdoor air quality is important because people do not have a choice about the air they breathe. Sources of air pollution in Montana include motor vehicles, gas and diesel-powered equipment, outdoor burning, wood smoke, industries and wildfires. Air pollution is linked to a variety of health problems including wheezing and shortness of breath, reducing lung function, aggravation of asthma and other respiratory diseases, chest pain, non-fatal heart attacks and premature death among people with existing lung and heart conditions.

Wildfire Smoke

Montana communities regularly experience wildfire smoke events. Wildfire season typically runs from April to October. As wildfires burn through forests and grasslands, they produce smoke. Wildfire smoke may be carried thousands of kilometers from the fire zone. This means smoke can impact air quality in areas close to and far from the wildfire. Outdoor smoke contains very small particles and gases. These particles can get into your eyes and lungs where they can cause health problems.

The main sources of outdoor smoke in Montana are:

  • Wildfires

  • Wood stoves, pellet stoves, and fireplaces

  • Agricultural burning

  • Prescribed fires (used to manage forests)