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Air quality almost back to normal despite smoldering wildfires

Fire crew briefing.Kootenai River complex
Courtesy of Kootenai River Complex fire team
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A fire team at the Kootenai River Complex in Boundary County gets a briefing before beginning work for the day.

Burn restrictions are lifted in northern Idaho Panhandle.

The air quality around the Inland Northwest this morning is good, except for some pockets where smoke continues to linger. That includes parts of Boundary County where the Kootenai River complex continues to smolder.

“Just because the fire is so close, I think they’re going to have some smoke until those fires go out, which probably won’t be, from what the Forest Service is telling us, until we get a major weather change, until the rains start or we get some snow that can help dampen those down," said Shawn Sweetapple from the air quality program at the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality.

Sweetapple says, even considering the smoke from the last week, it’s been a good summer for air quality in the Panhandle.

“The fires that grew together for the Kootenai River complex, they were up high enough in elevation early on that, even though there was some smoke in the area, it was up in the upper levels of the atmosphere, so it was hazy but the air quality down at the surface was fine. It was just when they burned further down on the mountain and the wind kind of shifted, that allowed the smoke to get down to the surface," he said.

The smoke this morning in Boundary County is classified as moderate. There are also some moderate readings in the Yakima area and in northwestern Montana.

Spokane County’s air quality is classified as good.