Smoke from wildfires creating hazy conditions in Boise; Idaho City, Garden Valley at red-alert level

kmoeller@idahostatesman.comJuly 16, 2014 

The Treasure Valley is smoky, and it's likely to be that way for the foreseeable future. Smoke from Boise County fires filtered into the Valley overnight, and air aloft has smoke from fires in Oregon and Canada.

At 9:30 a.m. Wednesday, visibility in Boise was about 5 miles. It had improved to about 8 miles by 10:30 a.m., according to the National Weather Service.

"There's a lot of smoke east of here and north of here that's just starting to come into the area now," National Weather Service meteorologist Korri Anderson said. "Today, winds aloft coming from the north are carrying all that smoke from Alberta and British Columbia. That smoke is coming down with the jet stream."

"It's amazing how many fires there are in northern Canada," Anderson said. He said smoke from the Buzzard Fire in eastern Oregon — which has burned more than 90,000 acres near Burns — is also likely to impact the Treasure Valley.

Smoke has created unhealthy air quality conditions in two Idaho cities close to the Whiskey Complex Fire, a cluster of lightning-sparked wildfires in Boise County, according to the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality. About 1,600 acres near Garden Valley have burned since the weekend, according to National Interagency Fire Center's Inciweb.

The IDEQ's real-time air quality map online Wednesday shows that Idaho City and Garden Valley are at red alert levels. Michael Toole, regional airshed coordinator for IDEQ, said the online numbers are preliminary but appear accurate. The values from the monitors are one-hour averages, so they fluctuate during the day, he said. He said he's expecting some clearing of the smoke this afternoon.

Idaho City's Air Quality Index, or AQI, number today is 190. AQIs that are between 151-200 are in the red category, which is defined as unhealthy for everyone — not just sensitive groups.

There were periods on Tuesday when Garden Valley was in the purple — very unhealthy — category, but by noon the smoke had cleared enough that the air quality registered as good, according to IDEQ.

An air quality monitor at St. Luke's Boise Medical Center was showing Boise in the moderate, or yellow, range Wednesday. The AQI was 73 at 10 a.m.

Katy Moeller: 377-6413

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