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Missoula County Smoke Problem Apparently Unprecedented in U.S. And Canada

Photo Courtesy of Jon King
Photo Courtesy of Jon King

No one seems to know how all of this smoke is going to impact public health in Missoula County long term. Missoula County Air Quality specialist Sarah Coefield has been reaching out, far and wide, for studies on the issue, but no one on the continent seems to have examined anything quite this bad.

“I reached out to a contact of mine from Health Canada actually, because Health Canada has done a lot of really neat wildfire studies and they’ve seen a lot of smoke in some of their provinces,” Coefield said. “I was just trying to see if there had been any studies on this type of pollution episode, to see what the long term effects might be and what we might be looking at. The gentleman I was speaking to said they hadn’t seen anything like this before. He pulled in the EPA to see if they had seen anything like this and they said ‘no, we haven’t seen anything like this either.”

While everyone is struggling with the smoke, some in the county are having a much harder time. The smoke situation beneath the Lolo Peak Fire and the Rice Ridge Fire is particularly bad.

“The air in Seeley Lake is still hazardous, I just talked to someone from the EPA and they said they’ve never seen anywhere in the United States have this kind of wildfire smoke exposure to prolonged hazardous conditions as what Seeley Lake has seen,” Coefield . Seeley Lake right now they are eight times worse than Lolo and Florence, which are three times worse than Missoula.”

After her discussions with the EPA, Coefield says her inbox is filling up with emails from those interested in studying the effects of all of this smoke. It’s very likely that local residents will be subjects in major studies on the subject.

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