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Here’s why the air in eastern Idaho is so smoky today

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IDAHO FALLS – Multiple fires in southern Oregon, Nevada and in other parts of the state are making the air in eastern Idaho smoky and hazy Sunday.

Mike Huston, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Pocatello, tells EastIdahoNews.com he anticipates the smoky conditions lasting about a week, based on current data from each of the fires.

“Just looking at the information we have on the fires, I don’t think any one of them (has been contained,),” Huston says.

Three different fires near Reno and parts of California make up the Beckwourth Complex Fire, says Huston. It is more than 61,000 acres and is only 9% contained.

The Bootleg Fire is burning more than 143,000 acres near Klamath Falls, Oregon. Firefighters are still working to contain it, as of 7 a.m. Sunday.

“That particular fire is the one putting the bulk of the smoke across our region,” Huston explains.

Several areas in Klamath County are under evacuation orders or notices to be ready to evacuate, according to CNN.

The other fires are in Idaho and include the Dixie Fire northwest of McCall and north of the Salmon River on the border of the Payette and Nez Perce National Forest, which is more than 14,000 acres. The other fire in that area is the 827-acre Jumbo Fire. No containment is listed for either of these fires.

The Dry Gulch Fire near Lewiston is listed at more than 38,000 acres with 5% containment.

“All of those fires are still putting out quite a bit of heat, based on satellite imagery. That means they’re burning actively and all of them are putting out smoke,” says Huston.

The Idaho Department of Environmental Quality rates the current air quality in eastern Idaho as “moderate.” The Lewiston area has an “unhealthy” rating, due to the abundance of smoke in the valley.

If you have upper respiratory issues that are sensitive to smoke, Huston recommends limiting your time outdoors.

“If we have a couple more days of cruddy conditions, we might actually get into “unhealthy” for sensitive (groups). We really don’t have a way of forecasting that. I’m just giving you a broad trend,” Huston says. “Luckily, most of the smoke we have isn’t socked in down low. Most of it is aloft, so that’s helping us out to some extent.”

The Idaho DEQ is expected to issue an advisory with recommendations on Monday morning, according to Huston.

On a positive note, Huston says the increase of smoke in the area has resulted in a slight decrease in temperatures.

RELATED | Another heatwave returning to eastern Idaho this week

After a heatwave in eastern Idaho over the last several weeks, Huston says temperatures are likely to remain “unseasonably hot” over the next week or so. But some relief may be on the way.

“There are disturbances coming in off the Pacific and they’re basically progressing east along the Canadian border, so what will happen is several days where we get some relief from the heat. With those passing systems, they’re not going to provide us with any precipitation. It will probably just give us a little bit of wind in some places,” he says.

And wind always causes problems for firefighters trying to get wildfires under control.

If you have outdoor activities planned or are sensitive to smoke, Huston is asking you to stay informed about air quality conditions over the next week through the DEQ website.

“If you’re in that category where you have a pre-existing condition, you might just want to stay indoors and limit your exposure outdoors. Stay in an area that’s air-conditioned. That will help as well,” he says.

For an in-depth forecast and the latest conditions in your area, visit the EastIdahoNews.com weather page.

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