Safety and Air Quality Tips in the Flathead Valley

Here in the Flathead Valley, we are all very aware of the wildfires surrounding us in every direction. The vast expanse of acreage lost to these fires is not only disheartening, but also impacts the various aspect of what makes the Flathead Valley such a wonderful place to live and play.

For days, our beautiful mountains that surround the Valley have disappeared behind the haze of smoke that fills the air around us. More importantly, the smoke from these wildfires is affecting the air quality of all that live here. Although smoke commonly dilutes over distance, it still contains various particles that are sufficient to create unsafe health conditions that impact every member of this community.

Our AQI, or Air Quality Index, for the Flathead Valley is hovering around 200 to 200 plus. According to the website for Montana Department of Environmental Quality, the elevated air quality is in the red zone and teetering on the purple zone. What this means is our air quality for the Valley is in the unhealthy to VERY unhealthy status.

The smoke that is caused by these fires can cause health problems for everyone, but especially for the very young as well as the elderly, or those with compromised lung issues or heart disease. The rule of thumb: The worse the visibility from the smoke, the more risks to your health. To monitor your local air quality, go to: As I am writing this article our visibility is 1.3 to 2.1 miles.

I personally want to stress taking protective measures and the importance of avoiding the smoke. If you are extremely sensitive to the smoke, make sure to close ALL windows and doors of your home and/or business. Keep yourself in a clean air environment with a strong HVAC system built in. A good air-conditioning system not only provides temperature comfort, but also acceptable air quality. Invest in a surgical mask versus a dust mask as the latter is just designed to keep out large particles like sawdust.

If you are taking shelter from the smoke in your own home, make sure that your air conditioning system is tightly built, the fresh air intake is closed and the air filter is clean. A solid investment for any whole-house air conditioning system is a highly efficient filter. Homes without central air systems should seal off a room and keep it air-conditioned. This will help protect against breathing in the worst effects from the wildfires.

Additionally, avoid adding to the indoor pollutants. Do not use your fireplace (wood or gas) or burn candles, and hold off on vacuuming unless absolutely needed. Running the vacuum cleaners stirs up particles in your home. Do not smoke. It adds to your indoor pollutants and is unhealthy for you and the people around you (even when there isn’t a threat of smoke from wildfires).

There are a few items available from Lennox that we are currently running a special on until this coming Monday. The Lennox “Pure Air,” is a high efficiency air filtration system that reduces chemicals and odors in your home, or the Lennox “Healthy Climate” is a bit more cost effective, and also an option for air quality control.

Last Wednesday, the smoke was hovering lower than normal, and I could really feel the effects in the back of my throat. Pay attention to the warning signs. If you are experiencing persistent cough; irritated lungs, throat or eyes; or difficulties breathing or chest discomfort, take protective measures and pursue medical attention.

At our current visibility and AQI, the local schools throughout the area are having to be very mindful of the length of time spent outdoors practicing, and with may football games and cross country meets beginning to kick off their season this weekend, it will be interesting how this all comes together.

One of the more positive things that comes out of this heavy blanket of smoke is that it does limit the oxygen available to fuel these local fires; however, it also can hinder aircraft being able to fly and dump water or fire retardant. A bit of a Catch-22! At Central, we care about the community that surrounds us; please be safe.

Let us make your life easier and cool. As always, your Comfort is our Central concern. Call 756-6656, for all your heating, cooling, plumbing, electrical and drain cleaning needs.

One of my Favorite Salads or Appetizers this time of year: This is prime time for locally grown tomato and basil season here in the Valley: I take yummy tomatoes sliced thin, and place them on a pretty platter. Sprinkle a bit of sugar and coarser salt over the tomatoes; drizzle your favorite balsamic vinegar over the tomatoes. Thinly slice mozzarella cheese and place a slice on top of each tomato, drizzle with your favorite Olive Oil or pesto. From your pretty basil bunch, clip off whole leaves and place a leaf on top of each cheese slice… Serve and enjoy with slices of toasted baguette.

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