20-09-16 Hailey smoke sunset 1 Roland WF.jpg

Smoke lent the sunset over Hailey a telltale orange hue on Monday, Sept. 14.

The Idaho Department of Environmental Quality extended an Air Pollution Forecast Caution Monday afternoon. The caution notifies residents of the South Central Public Health District’s eight counties—Blaine, Camas, Cassia, Gooding, Jerome, Lincoln, Minidoka and Twin Falls—of potentially hazardous degraded air quality.

Burning restrictions also remain in effect for the area as smoke from wildfires both in-state and beyond billows through Idaho.

The extended caution will remain in place at least until the DEQ’s next scheduled update at 1 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 16.

As of 10 a.m. Tuesday, the DEQ rated air quality in the Wood River Valley as “moderate,” though cautioned that it could degrade to “unhealthy for sensitive groups,” including children, seniors and those with lung or heart problems.

Throughout the weekend, the air quality in the Wood River Valley was rated “unhealthy” on the DEQ’s Air Quality Index.

Sunday morning’s AQI reading of 171 recorded at the DEQ’s monitoring station at Ketchum’s Ernest Hemingway STEAM School denoted a high concentration of particulate in the air, potentially causing health problems to anyone who breathes it, not just those in vulnerable groups.

Ketchum’s AQI reading was far from the worst in the state. Stations across Idaho’s western border displayed AQI readings of “very unhealthy” or “hazardous”—the most severe reading on the index—throughout the weekend. By Tuesday morning, air quality had improved slightly in the most heavily affected areas of the Idaho panhandle, but still posed critical health threats.

The DEQ stated on Monday that minor shifts in weather conditions can have major impacts on air quality. For the most up-to-date AQI readings, visit airquality.deq.idaho.gov.

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