The brightly colored hot-air balloons rising over Boise this morning are still a pretty sight, but the view is marred this year by the wildfire smoke that's been plaguing our air all month. The Idaho DEQ predicts air quality in the “moderate,” or yellow category for the Treasure Valley today, with an air quality index of 80 due to PM 2.5 pollution - that's tiny particles in the air from smoke. The DEQ is predicting “smoke impacts” from new wildfires in southeastern Oregon, along with smoke from the Trinity Ridge fire in Idaho and from California fires all to impact the area's air quality today.
“Moderate” air quality is defined as an AQI of 50 to 100; 101 to 150 is orange, or unhealthy for sensitive groups; and 151 to 200 is a red alert, or unhealthy air for everyone. So far this month, the Treasure Valley has had one red alert, six orange, and more than a dozen yellow.
I can't remember a year with worse air here. Mike Toole of the Idaho DEQ said he can verify that this year is the worst in the past decade. The only ones that came close were about a week of intense wildfire smoke in 2007, and a seven- to 10-day winter inversion with poor air quality in 2002. “This one we're dealing with now started on Aug. 5,” Toole said, “So we're going on four weeks with this, and we're just not seeing a lot of evidence that we're going to break out of this smoke cycle any time soon.”