Butte residents experience worst air quality day in 2 years


BUTTE, Mont. - The air quality in Butte hit a two-year low Tuesday.

According to air quality reports by the Department of Environmental Quality it was one of the 10 worst air quality days in Butte since air quality monitors were put in place in 2009.

Air quality hasn't been measured as poor as it was Tuesday in Butte since 2013, when thick smoke was coming from wildfires burning in Washington.

This year fires are burning closer to home. That includes the Conrow Fire in Whitehall, the Meyers Fire near Philipsburg and the Lolo Peak Fire near Missoula.

Butte-Silver Bow health officials say heavy smoke is especially hard on seniors.

Aila Camp is a resident at the Big Sky Senior Living Center in Butte. She says part of her morning routine is to spend time outside with her sister, but not on Tuesday.

"I told her I would prefer not to go outside," Camp said.

For people like Camp who have a history of asthma, the smoky air isn't just unpleasant. It creates serious health concerns.

"I get congested. My chest gets wheezy. It's the air quality that is doing it. I can tell," Camp said.

Camp grew up in Butte. We asked if this is one of the smokiest days she's seen.

"Yes," she said. "When we are eating our meals we can usually see the smoke rise if it's getting better. But today it's not. It's just lying flat."

Butte health officials warn everyone, young and old, to stay outside as little as possible.

"People with asthma, young children, the elderly. We make recommendations that judge whether or not you can be outside. Or whether or not you want to be outside. Even in this air quality right now, people who are healthy, we do not recommend that they do prolonged activities outside right now, because the smoke is so thick," said Stephen Burns, a Butte-Silver Bow health sanitarian.

Officials say if you must be outside, do so in short spurts. Don't prolong any activity.

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