MTPR

Sarah Coefield

NOAA forecast of near-surface smoke for July 9, 2018.
NOAA Earth System Research Laboratory

Smoke visible in the Missoula area Monday dropped the air quality to "moderate." The smoke is likely coming from the Klamathon Fire in California.

Sarah Coefield of Missoula City-County Health Department said the fire is burning about 35,000 acres near the California/Oregon border.

Smoke covers the northwest on Sept. 4 2017.
NOAA

For most Montanans, wildfire smoke is ‘out of sight, out of mind’. It’s been almost a year since smoke pollution filled Missoula County, turning the air yellow and creating a public health crisis for residents. But one air quality expert is urging people to start preparing for the smoke before wildfire season arrives.

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.

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