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Poor air quality leads to the cancellation of sports practices, events

The Idaho Department of Environmental Quality said the smoke influx into Idaho was from forest fires in California.

BOISE, Idaho – The influx of smoke from regional forest fires is reaching unhealthy levels for those who are active and outdoors for long periods of time. This means that high school sports and other events around the Treasure Valley outside of the pandemic are facing another obstacle.

“Fire activity in California is still strong, there are still a few fires that are generating quite a bit of smoke,” said Mike Toole, the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) regional airshed coordinator.

That thick cloud of smoke is something that Treasure Valley struggles with for most of the summer. However, Toole said this was due to a shift in this week’s weather pattern known as the “southwest current,” which is a counterclockwise flow of smoke brought to Gem State by the California forest fires.

“It is expected to last this week, we hope to see a pattern change later in the week,” said Toole. He adds that Treasure Valley could see that change too this weekend or early next week.

According to DEQ, more smoke creates more dangerous air quality.

On Tuesday morning and early afternoon, areas around the valley, such as Boise, Meridian and Nampa, hit over 150 in the Air Quality Index (AQI), classifying certain areas as unhealthy air quality, also known as the red category (151-200 AQI).

As these areas hit a certain AQI, dozens of outdoor exercise and games were either canceled or moved indoors. Boise and West Ada school districts use information provided by DEQ.

“Because the air quality was in the red, especially at 152 and 153, we canceled all sports games today and moved the training indoors,” said Dan Hollar, the public affairs administrator for the Boise School District, told KTVB.

The Boise School District will attempt to send notices of air quality sports and outdoor event cancellations by 1:00 p.m. for junior highs and 2:00 p.m. for high schools. The schools are working to find a window to postpone Tuesday’s canceled games, it just depends on the air quality, Hollar said.

Even outdoor programs and city-level events, like the City of Eagle Parks and Recreation, monitored the DEQ’s air quality index. Park and Recreation director Beeg Johnson was forced to cancel Tuesday’s Eagle Youth Soccer League training, Just for Kicks Soccer program and Yappy Hour Splash Pad Special.

“If it’s in the red, 150 or higher, we’ll cancel all outdoor programs,” said Johnson.

The Parks and Recreation staff are working to postpone the football programs. However, the Yappy Hour Splash Pad does not move.

Toole said as the day warmed up, Treasure Valley saw some relief and air quality dropped to orange levels (101-150 AQI). According to Toole, vulnerable groups like children, elderly Idahoans and people with respiratory problems should still be aware.

“Limit your outdoor exposure as much as possible, and if you need to be outside, try to avoid strenuous activities that will expose you to more smoke as you breathe more intensely or deeply,” Toole said.

However, since the air quality will be somewhere between orange and red for the next few days, Toole advises anyone planning to be outdoors at all times to be careful.

“That [smoke] can get so thick and deep in your lungs that staying away from it is probably best for your health, “said Toole.

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