Smoke from fires in Canada has settled over parts of Montana, leaving swaths of the state with August-like skies and poor air quality.

Kristen Martin, of the Montana Department of Environmental Quality, said based on the town’s low visibility, Bozeman’s air quality ranged from unhealthy for sensitive groups, like people with asthma, to unhealthy on Friday.

“The worse the visibility, the worse the air quality,” Martin said. “People should be careful with outdoor activities now until the visibility improves.”

The dense smoke arrived overnight, blanketing the area along the Rocky Mountain Front down to Helena. The haze is from fires burning across northern Alberta and British Columbia, according to the National Weather Service.

DEQ said air quality in the Bozeman area should improve Sunday.

Most of Montana had unhealthy-to-moderate air quality by Friday evening because of the smoke, according to the state.

Scientists are still studying the long-term impact of wildfires on people who live with fire seasons. Studies have shown smoke’s small particulate matter can lodge deep into people’s lungs and do damage.

Gallatin City-County Health Officer Matt Kelley said people should follow the state’s online updates and recommendations.

“The number one thing we tell people is to keep an eye on the air monitors,” Kelley said. “The other is trust your body. When you’re body is telling you to slow down, slow down. If it feels bad, take a break and go inside.”

More than two dozen fires are burning in Alberta and 10,000 people have been forced from their homes, according to the Associated Press.

The smoke has also drifted into North Dakota, South Dakota, Washington state and Wyoming.

The government agency Alberta Wildfire reported the largest blaze is out of control about 450 miles north of Edmonton and has burned 887 square miles.

Martin said it’s typical for smoke from fires in Canada to drift into eastern Montana early in the summer but the early season-smoke hitting places like Bozeman is abnormal.

“We tend to have a lull in June. Hopefully that will happen and it won’t be fast and furious from now on,” she said.

To follow the state’s air quality, visit http://svc.mt.gov/deq/todaysair/.

Katheryn Houghton can be reached at khoughton@dailychronicle.com or at 582-2628. Follow her on Twitter @K_Hought.

Katheryn Houghton is the city government and health reporter for the Bozeman Daily Chronicle.

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