The Missoula City-County Health Department said the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forest is set to launch a prescribed burn 40 miles west of Missoula County on Friday morning.
And it’s likely to impact local air quality.
“We should expect to see smoke from that burn over the southern part of Missoula County and the northern Bitterroot Valley later this afternoon and early evening,” Sarah Coefield, the county’s air quality specialist, said in a statement.
“This is a smaller acreage than we saw ignited on Wednesday (50 versus 80 acres),” she added. “By starting the burn earlier in the day, the hope is that most of the smoke will pass overhead before the evening down drainage winds start pulling high elevation air to the valley floor.”
While Missoula has enjoyed a relatively smoke free summer, heavy smoke did inundate the valley this week as the Forest Service in Idaho began its prescribed burning.
Coefiled said the Shale Creek fire is also burning in the area.
“There is a small wildfire burning in the same area as the prescribed burns,” she said. “It sent us some smoke on Wednesday (the plumes from the prescribed burn and wildfire overlapped a fair bit), and if it wakes up this afternoon, we may again see wildfire smoke joining prescribed smoke.
“Last I heard, the Forest (Service) is planning on igniting an additional 50 acres in the same area this weekend, so we may also see smoke heading our way in the coming days.”
Coefield said her department will send out health advisories and updates if the air quality deteriorates and becomes unhealthy for sensitive groups.