Sarah Coefield

Jean Loesch and her family live in Seeley Lake, Mont., which saw the longest and most intense smoke from Montana's wildfires this summer. Loesch has 10 children, adopted or in her foster care, and they are learning what it's like to have lingering respiratory problems.

Last summer, Loesch says, the smoke was so thick outside, the family couldn't see the trees across the street, so they stayed inside. It was still really hard to breathe.

"These guys were miserable," Loesch says. "I think each one of them ended up having to go to the doctor." Everyone needed inhalers.

Amy Cilimburg, the director of Climate Smart Missoula, helped Seeley Lake residents Joy and Don Dunagan get a HEPA air filter through a partnership with the Missoula City-County Health Department.
Nora Saks

This past wildfire season, unprecedented amounts of wildfire smoke in communities across western Montana threw public health agencies a curveball.

Yesterday, we dove into what we know and are still learning about the long term health impacts of exposure to wildfire smoke. Today, we’re looking at what it would take to provide filtered air to the most vulnerable Montanans.

Widlfire smoke fills the sky in Seeley Lake August  7, 2017.
Eric Whitney

This summer, Missoula County had its worst wildfire smoke season on record. It’s unclear how exactly that impacted the health of county residents, both as the fires were burning and longer term, but researchers are starting to pull in some data.

Panelists at a forum called "How do we live with fire?" at the University of Montana, October 24 in Missoula.
Josh Burnham

Across the state this summer, tens of thousands of Montanans had to face the challenge of living with big wildfires. Some people lost their homes, two firefighters lost their lives, and businesses, schools and individuals were impacted, in ways ranging from the mildly inconvenient to the life-changing.

"It's likely that we'll be experiencing more years like 2017 in the future," says Fire Ecologist Phil Higuera.

Frenchtown kindergarten teacher Justine Luebke shows off a brand new HEPA air filtration unit that will help purify the air in her classroom.
Nora Saks

Now that fire season has extended into the school year, many western Montana schools have been keeping kids inside because of heavy smoke. But that doesn’t mean they’re breathing clean air. Some community partnerships are springing up to try to get air filters into more classrooms.