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Heeding Air Quality Alerts

While Montpelier does not have a local, air-quality monitoring station, it does have the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) office that plans and oversees air-quality monitoring and reporting.

The Capital Region was fortunate to be minimally impacted by smoke from the fires in Northern Quebec – until Sunday, June 25, when, by mid-afternoon the air was visibly filled with a brownish, smokey haze.

Vermont Alerts promptly provided notice of the concern, which was even greater in Burlington and the Champlain Valley.  Bennet Lyon, DEC section chief for air quality planning, says that Vermont has four sites that monitor air quality: Burlington, Underhill, Rutland, and Bennington. At the national level, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Weather Service (NWS) collaborate to prepare air quality forecasts.

 Not having local monitoring equipment in Montpelier, which is part of the Mountain Valley area east of the Green Mountains, the collaboration on releasing local alerts frequently rests with Lyon and Forecaster Dan Riley. Keeping an eye on where the wind is blowing is a key part of the decision process for issuing alerts in the Mountain Valley area, Lyon explained.

 “The air quality reporting system was initially set up for monitoring ozone, which primarily blew into Vermont from the west,” Lyon said. “Wildfire smoke events illustrate that the original system does not work as well for forecasting. We are working with the EPA to improve the display.”

 Lyon confirmed that air quality problems are relatively unusual for central Vermont valleys. “In 2002 we had very similar conditions due to Quebec fires,” he said. In 2013 and 2021 smoke drifted east from the west. At that distance the particles (PM2.5) “stayed aloft and weren’t as concentrated.”

What you can do:

Register with Vermont Alerts, which provides text alerts for any issues of public safety.

Become familiar with resource websites:  AirNow – airnow.gov and Smoke Map – fire.airnow.gov 

Understand the color-coded symbols and how they relate to your personal health and that of family members.

Postpone outdoor exercise until the air quality improves.