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Idaho DEQ Says These Tips Will Help You Prepare For Wildfire Smoke

Tree branches block a red sky and sun that's hazy because of wildfire smoke.
Cian Fenton
Flickr Creative Commons

The wildfire potential in Idaho is "above normal" for July, August and September. But even when the fires are outside the state’s borders, the smoke still affects us here.

Mark Boyle is the smoke supervisor at Idaho’s Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ). He said while the fires in Idaho last year weren’t as threatening to population centers compared to in other states, there was still a lot of smoke here.

"Nobody got away without having some level of smoke from last year's wildfires," he said.

Wildfire smoke is a mix of gases and small particles, which can get deep into your lungs.

“Whether it’s just watery eye or dry-scratchy throat," or it worsens your breathing, Boyle said, people should be on the lookout for wildfire smoke.

It’s especially threatening to people that already have health conditions like asthma or cardiovascular problems, and people who are confined to certain spaces, like the elderly, homebound, and even kids when school is in session.

Boyle suggests people frequently check a map DEQ publishes, which is generated from outdoor monitoring stations around the state. It shows local air quality reports ranging from "good" to "hazardous." As of Wednesday, all of Idaho's stations were reporting "good" air quality.

Scientists say, generally, if smoke is causing poor air quality, you shouldn’t be outside for long periods of time.

“Get in the house, close your doors, don’t open your windows," Boyle said. But, it's also more complicated than that.

"Houses are designed to not be 100% air tight," he said. That means particles from wildfire smoke can build up in your house, too. DEQ and the EPA suggest setting up portable air cleaners to prevent that from happening, but not one that produces ozone.

Find reporter Rachel Cohen on Twitter @racheld_cohen

Copyright 2021 Boise State Public Radio

As the south-central Idaho reporter, I cover the Magic and Wood River valleys. I also enjoy writing about issues related to health and the environment.