Since the Rice Ridge Fire blew up on July 24 just a few miles from Seeley Lake, residents have been subjected for almost three weeks to the worst air quality in the state.

Air Quality Specialist with the Missoula City County Health Department, Sarah Coefield used the strongest terms possible to people who may have respiratory problems or weakened immune systems in the Seeley Lake area, get out.

"In Seeley Lake, and in Superior, we're seeing air quality regularly reaching hazardous levels," Coefield said. "We really haven't seen this in Missoula County for this prolonged of a period, so it's a new situation for the whole community. The entire community of Seeley Lake are being exposed to really terrible levels of air pollution right now, and one of the best things that folks can do is just get away from the smoke, just get out if you can."

Coefield is concerned that Seeley Lake, being a small community, has limited medical resources to treat people who have complications from breathing the wildfire smoke on a prolonged basis.

"We may be seeing folks heading toward needing emergency services and needing really quick treatment, and Seeley only has the one health clinic and it's not open on the weekends," she said. "The fire station there has ambulances and they have great EMS folks, but there's concern about them being swamped and not being able to respond appropriately and as effectively as they would like. Folks need to be taking measures like installing a HEPA air filter and creating as clean a space as possible, or simply leave the area. There is a pre-evacuation shelter in the Potomac Valley, but we really do recommend that people avoid breathing the smoke that is in the Seeley Lake area right now because it is tremendously awful."

Fire information at the Rice Ridge fire confirmed that Seeley Lake itself is still closed to all recreation so that planes and helicopters can use lake water without placing swimmers and boaters in danger.


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