The smoky haze in the Missoula Valley on Thursday is not from the small lightning fires burning in the Lolo National Forest.

Air Quality Specialist with the Missoula City County Health Department Sarah Coefield said the smoke is coming from much farther away.

We did have some haze this morning, and if you look at a satellite photo, you can see that what has happened is smoke from fires in California has swept across the country and swung up into Montana.

“We did have some haze this morning, and if you look at a satellite photo, you can see that what has happened is smoke from fires in California has swept across the country and swung up into Montana,” said Coefield. “It is a massive plume of smoke. We've been very fortunate to just get nicked by the northern edge of that plume. But it was enough to bring hazy conditions kind of a glowy tinge to the light this morning and some increased particulate levels.”

Coefield said conditions are right to receive even more smoke from these massive fires in California and Oregon.

“We are going to continue to see smoke kind of headed our way from California,” she said. “Over the next several days it'll be somewhat intermittent of when the upper level winds will be positioned correctly to send that smoke toward us. But I do expect to kind of see it coming back and we may see more significant impacts in the future.”

Coefield said the Missoula area was receiving some thunderstorm activity that could produce small spot fires in the next few days.

“We are just right now as we speak, getting lightning right directly west of Missoula,” she said. “So there was always a little potential for our own fire start. So, you know, I wanted to get some information out to the public to explain like hey, it is hazy. You aren't imagining things there is in fact smoke from wildfires in our area.”

Coefield said the Missoula Valley has been extremely fortunate to have some many smoke-free days over the bulk of the wildfire season.

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