Boise, ID

Are the Smoke and Haze Leaving Boise Any Time Soon?

Stuart Gustafson

Are you as tired of the smoke and haze as I am, as well as all my friends and neighbors? I mean, there is something a bit interesting seeing a bright orange-red sun, not that you should ever look directly at it. But the color is worthy of a photograph. The same with the moon; that orange ball in the sky at night looks nice, but you know it means that the air quality is not very good.

As I am writing this article on Wednesday morning, the Air Quality Index in Boise has just moved from an Unhealthy AQI of 104 (at 9:00 AM local time) to a Moderate AQI of 100 an hour later. I honestly don’t think that many people can tell the difference between a 104 level and a 100 level. Aside from referencing an index, one can also just look outside and see the gray, hazy sky, and smell the smoke.
What is causing our air quality to remain poor for such a long time?

Wildfires are the primary cause of the smoke and haze in Boise right now. There is also some agricultural burning and a few campfires, although camping is greatly reduced now that schools have re-opened their doors.

According to the Fire and Smoke Map at, there are nine wildfires whose smoke is having an effect on Boise. With our normally prevailing westerly winds coming in from Eastern Oregon, the Black Butte Fire at the eastern edge of the Malheur National Forest is 89% contained, and has burned 22,445 acres, or about 35 square miles.

The other two fires closest to Boise, the Boundary Fire and the Scarface Fire, are both 55% contained, and have burned 975 acres and 500 acres, respectively. Being that they are northeast of Boise, between about 80 and 100 miles away, their smoke will not have as much effect on the Boise weather as does the Black Butte Fire.

According to the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC) that is headquartered right here in Boise, Idaho, we are currently at a Fire Preparedness Level 5, the highest level. Per the graphic above, a level 5 means, “the majority of firefighting resources are committed due to the large amount of wildland fire activity throughout the country.”

When pressed for a prediction on how long we will remain at that level, or when the smoke and haze will leave the Boise area, officials are hesitant to give a date. “It depends,” is unfortunately the answer we typically hear. And that is true. A lot of it does depend on how long we have warm, dry weather. And while rain showers and thunderstorms do bring some moisture to the land, many wildfires are also caused by the lightning in those storms. Since the beginning of November is typically when the weather starts turning cold as the predecessor of winter in Boise, I would expect we can continue to see the hazy days for at least two more months.

Sorry to be the bad news messenger

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Articles on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday about travel, relevant local/regional items, some finance. Always with a slant to ask you to think.

Boise, ID

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