The Moscow School District and Moscow Charter School will not open today, instead delaying the first day of fall classes until Tuesday because of poor air quality in the region.

As of Sunday afternoon, the air quality index in Moscow was “unhealthy” according to and the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality. The air quality index (which hovered near 200 much of Sunday afternoon) was expected to remain near that level today as smoke from fires in the region continues to remain in the area.

At its worst, Moscow and areas in northern Latah County reach “hazardous” AQIs of above 500 on Saturday according to IDEQ data.

Eastern Washington and northern Idaho residents can expect the haze smothering the region to stick around likely into Tuesday’s early morning hours.

Air quality across the region will vary from moderate to hazardous. The NWS advises people to limit outdoor activities and keep children indoors. Pollutants in smoke can cause burning eyes, a runny nose and aggravate heart and lung diseases.

School closures

Moscow School District Superintendent Greg Bailey sent an email and phone message to school district teachers and families just after 1 p.m. Sunday announcing today’s closure.

Bailey indicated staff working in school buildings during the weekend were concerned with the poor air quality.

“As recommended by the CDC, we have opened our outside air vents within our HVAC system to the maximum level to help in reducing the possibility of spreading the COVID virus,” Bailey wrote. “However, due to the current air quality we had to close these vents and have still received concerns from staff that have been working in the building over the weekend of poor air quality.”

All after-school activities were also canceled today parents would be notified by a representative of the school district of any changes. Today’s school closure affects all in-person, online and hybrid learning in the district.

Soon after the Moscow School District announcement, Moscow Charter School Administrator Tony Bonuccelli announced the charter school would be closed today as well.

There will not be any students on campus and no online learning will be provided, according to a post on the charter school’s Facebook page. The school plans to resume its normal schedule Tuesday.

Also Sunday, Washington State University has canceled all on-site events or activities scheduled for today on the Pullman campus because of poor air quality.

Online classes will resume as normal Monday according to a WSU Alert sent to the university community.

The University of Idaho also close its Moscow campus today. The university sent a Vandal Alert to the UI community Sunday evening. Normal operations are expected to resume Tuesday.

Fire updates

Locally, firefighters on the Palouse have made progress containing nearby wildfires during the weekend.

As of Sunday morning, the Babb-Malden fire that destroyed Malden and Pine City last week was 50 percent contained, according to the Northwest Incident Management Team.

The incident management team said a cold front may arrive today, which could bring scattered showers and some relief from the smoke. However, gusty winds may test the fire containment lines.

Crews this past weekend focused on extinguishing visible smoke and continued mop-up work around structures in Malden and Pine City. On Sunday, additional firefighters were added to the scene as crews focused on the perimeter fire line.

Firefighters also made progress on the Manning Fire northwest of Colfax. That fire is 90 percent contained. Local fire districts are preparing to assume command of the fire and continue to protect threatened structures in the interior.

Crews were able to completely knock down a fire on Wawawai Canyon that started just before 1 a.m. Saturday. State fire assistance was mobilized to support the local firefighters from Colton, Uniontown, Pullman, Albion, Colfax and Palouse responding to the flames.

The fire grew to more than 300 acres but there were no structures reported damaged.

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