Boise & Garden City

Wildfire smoke is choking the Boise area — when will it clear out?

View of the Cinder Butte Fire

This is a video of smoke from the Cinder Butte Fire in Oregon.
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This is a video of smoke from the Cinder Butte Fire in Oregon.

You’re coughing. Your eyes sting. You’ve got a headache.

Those are all symptoms of exposure to wildfire smoke, and it can cause serious problems for people who have lung or heart conditions.

The air quality in the Treasure Valley wasn’t good for much of July, and it’s only gotten worse in early August as smoke from wildfires throughout the Northwest and British Columbia has been carried our direction.

An orange air quality alert was issued for Sunday and Monday, so those in sensitive groups may experience health impacts. Everyone is urged to limit physical exertion while outdoors. All burning activities are prohibited in Ada, Canyon and Elmore counties.

So when will it end?

Forecasters at the National Weather Service don’t see anything in the near future that will push out the smoke that’s hanging over the Treasure Valley.

“There’s no wind to blow the smoke out of here right now,” said Weather Service meteorologist Stephen Parker on Sunday night. “Our winds are going to stay light all week.”

Visibility in Boise dropped to as low as 1.75 miles on Saturday. It was about 3 miles most of Sunday, Parker said.

The Cinder Butte Fire in eastern Oregon was believed to be causing much of the smoke in the Boise area last week. The fire, which began Wednesday south U.S. 20 between Burns and Bend, has burned more than 52,000 acres. As of Sunday night, firefighters had it about 60 percent contained, according to InciWeb.

Air quality in the Treasure Valley during August the past two years was rarely “good,” or green, by Idaho Department of Environmental Quality standards.

In 2016, there were 23 days of moderate or worse levels of pollution (including five days that were unhealthy for sensitive groups), according to IDEQ data. In 2015, there were 23 days of moderate or worse (including five days unhealthy for sensitive groups and four days unhealthy for all groups).

Katy Moeller: 208-377-6413, @KatyMoeller

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