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Air quality experts say the smoke is likely to stick around

Posted at 5:56 PM, Aug 17, 2016
and last updated 2016-08-17 20:17:43-04

Most of us have clued in that the air quality in the valley has been far from perfect this week.

If you're a longtime resident of the Treasure Valley who doesn't recall seeing so much smoke during the fire season in years past, you're not alone!

And you're right, according to experts, just 5-6 years ago the smoke from wildfires didn't linger as much.

In recent years, the trend has been moving toward having fire seasons that last longer with flames that are more intense and extreme.

With the Pioneer Fire burning strong near Idaho City, along with fires in neighboring Oregon, the smoke won't be clearing out anytime soon.

"Unfortunately, the forecast looking forward says the same," said Mike Toole, a regional airshed coordinator for the Department of Environmental Quality in Boise. "You always keep you fingers crossed and hope for the best.. but expect that it may continue."

The good news is that the early morning smoke tends to rise and move out of the area in the early afternoon.

Bad news is that this all depends on weather patterns, and the smoke usually filters back in by the evening hours.

With air quality levels, more or less, stuck in the moderate category, DEQ experts say it's best to error on the side of caution.

"We just ask people to be aware of those times of day and watch the information we provide with the air quality monitors," Toole said. "Limiting exposure is the number one thing you can do."

What's driving the trend? Ongoing drought-like conditions.

This year's winter snowpack just wasn't enough to get caught up, according to BLM Public Affairs Specialist Jessica Gardetto.

"Even though Fall is approaching, we still have at least a month left of the fire season," Gardetto said. "And, with Labor Day coming up, we're asking people to be extremely careful."

Gardetto points out that even though it seems like the fire season has been worse this year compared to 2015, it's really not when you compare the acreage burned in Idaho. In mid-August of 2015, 7 million acres had burned, while so far this year 3.9 million acres have been scorched thus far.

It's recommended that you ensure that campfires are fully exstinguished and that you do not park any type of vehicle on dry grass.