BUTTE, Mont. — There’s nothing better than a view of beautiful Butte, America, on a clear day. But those days can be limited in the summer when the smoke from wildfires starts rolling in.
This smoke could have serious adverse effects on Butte’s most vulnerable populations, but the county health department is working to combat it.
Every day, the health department collects air quality data from its monitoring station. And while a wet winter has kept the air looking good for now, that won’t be the case next summer.
When smoke from wildfires rises in the mountains, often from as far away as California, it settles in the valleys, like where Butte is located. Inhalation of this smoke can have adverse effects on the lungs, especially in children, the elderly, people with pre-existing health conditions, and other populations considered vulnerable.
To combat this, the Butte-Silver Bow Health Department developed a plan with the help of the EPA to make Butte a “smoking-friendly” community. The main takeaways are to keep an eye on the air quality data and take precautionary measures when those smoky days arrive.
“If you can’t see the East Ridge from your home, you should stay indoors and take appropriate steps to protect yourself,” said environmental health specialist Jackie Thompson. “We also recommend that if you have to go out, you wear an N95 mask, because that’s pretty much the only one that will protect you from these particles.”
In addition to this plan, the health department is working on an air purifier loaner program, where people can receive help to ensure they have quality air in their homes when outside air is less than desirable.
“Smoke can actually seep into the house, just through windows, opening and closing doors, bad HVAC systems and things like that,” Thompson said. “With the loan program, we will provide air purifiers to low-income people and our senior citizens, so they can create a clean indoor air space in their homes.”
Thompson says the county’s air quality plan should be available as soon as possible.
In the meantime, you can visit the EPA’s Fire & Smoke map or the county’s wildfire smoke information page.
You can also contact Jackie Thompson at [email protected] with any questions.