BILLINGS – The disastrous wildfire season of 2017 is still fresh in the memory of many Montanans as fires scorch more acreage this season.
The flames capture attention as they threaten buildings and move through the wilderness, but the smoke they billow into the air ultimately affects many more people.
Climate Smart Missoula is launching www.montanawildfiresmoke.org, a website designed to give residents across the state a resource to turn to as air quality concerns spread across Montana.
The goal of the site is to make information on how to be as safe and healthy as possible during Montana’s expanding wildfire season, as easily accessible as possible.
A common piece of advice to deal with smoky air is to stay inside, but Climate Smart Missoula has found that air quality inside buildings can often be just as bad as outside. Few buildings have advanced enough filtration systems to capture the fine particulate produced by wildfires, the group said.
The website has more information on how to keep the home a healthy environment, along with scientific findings, climate information and up to date information on current conditions.
The site was founded with grant money from Montana Wildfire Relief Fund. Missoula air quality specialist Sarah Coefield said she believes that this resource will serve the community as fire seasons continue to affect air quality.
“This problem is not going away. In fact, (it) is likely to get worse, so we’ve got to help Montanans stay as healthy as possible. This website is a wonderful and needed resource when the smoke’s bad, but also as we plan for next year and the years to come,” said Coefield in a press release.
Billings Clinic Pulmonologist Dr. Daniel Loverde said that the impacts of poor air quality are far reaching and can affect our communities in multiple ways.
“Poor air quality usually comes along with pollutants or particulates in the air. These things can get inside the lungs and cause irritation and inflammation. And that’s what produces a lot of people’s respiratory symptoms. So when air quality declines, we know, from multiple studies in the United States and around the world, that… hospital admissions go up, people get sicker and diseases tend to get worse,” said Dr. Loverde.
The site will be updated with current information on fires and air quality as well as new scientific and medical information.
Reporting by Mallory Peebles and