The Montana Department of Environmental Quality (MT DEQ) has deployed additional air quality monitors this winter to inform its recommendations when reviewing burn requests and to track smoke from prescribed winter burns by the U.S. Forest Service’s Helena Ranger District and the City of Helena. The temporary monitors deployed for this project are near-regulatory grade and subject to robust quality assurance to ensure accuracy.
The monitors will help track smoke concentrations, and data from the temporary monitors are publicly available on EPA’s AirNow Fire and Smoke map. This map displays data from temporary monitors and low-cost monitors purchased by private citizens, in addition to MT DEQ’s regulatory monitors. Near real-time air quality information can be accessed at any time via MT DEQ’s Today’s Air.
Wintertime burning is challenging from an air quality perspective because daily atmospheric heating and mixing cycles are often too weak to clear smoke in the winter and can cause inversions trapping pollutants near Earth’s surface. However, wintertime prescribed burns are increasingly necessary as it is unsafe to conduct burning without snow on the ground due to fire danger.
For a list of low-cost sensors and monitors used by states, locals, and tribes, visit the E-Enterprise Community Inventory Platform (EECIP) Advanced Monitoring Scan & Screen Network & Technology Clearinghouse webpage.