When the haze is so thick the mountains to the north are mere silhouettes, the presumption is that western Montana is socked in with wildfire smoke.

Air Quality Specialist with the Missoula City County Health Department, Sarah Coefield said on Wednesday that despite the thick haze, air quality is rated as ‘moderate’.

“So far, we haven’t crept past ‘moderate’ for the health category,” said Coefield. “You have to remember that the fine particulate in smoke scatters light, so the smoke tends to look a little worse than it actually is.”

Coefield said many areas of the west are sharing their smoke with the Missoula area.

“We’ve been seeing smoke coming in from fires burning all around the region for several days, we’re getting smoke from Idaho as well, and since we’re under such a large high pressure system, the smoke is stalling here in the Missoula valley,” she said. “We may see a shift in the weather by Friday with the potential for some thunderstorms and that may help us clear out a little bit.”

Coefield said the longer the smoke lingers, the worse it might become for those with respiratory problems.

“There’s going to be more smoke coming in, and if that mixes down to ground level, we may see air quality deteriorate,” she said. “Check the county’s air quality website for regular updates.”