Missoula, MT (KGVO-AM News) - On Wednesday, July 10, there will be three ‘Wildfire and Extreme Heat Resilience Open Houses’ focusing on Missoula and Seeley Lake.

According to a press release from Missoula Public Health “these two events are centered around climate resiliency in Missoula County schools, focusing on Seeley Swan High School, Russell Elementary and Frenchtown K-5.”

I spoke on Tuesday with Kerri Mueller, Air Quality Specialist with Missoula Public Health about the open houses.

Open Houses will Focus on Wildfire Smoke and Extreme Heat Resilience

“We have two open houses,” began Mueller. “One will be in Seeley Lake at the Community Foundation from 4:30 to 6:00 p.m., and then one at the Missoula Fairgrounds in the Floriculture Building Number 15, and that one is from 6:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. Both of these events are focused around wildfire smoke, wildfire, and extreme heat resilience in our communities.”

Mueller said wildfire smoke can affect everyone differently, as was studied after the Rice Ridge Fire in Seeley Lake in 2017.

“It can really affect everyone differently,” she said. “One day you might get a headache and the next day you get a sore throat, or if you have asthma, COPD or a chronic illness it might heighten your symptoms. We are focused on when wildfire smoke comes we want to be ready, and we want to have a place where the community can go to have a safe haven from the wildfire smoke.”

There will be EPA 'Technical Assistance Teams' at the Open Houses

Mueller referenced the 'Technical Assistance Team' that will meet with the public at each of the open houses to share their expertise.

“The Technical Assistance Team is a group of really qualified individuals,” she said. “Some of them are coming from Michigan, some from Washington, and a couple from Colorado. This team is coming together to look at our concerns in our communities. We have identified the three schools that we want them to focus on, including Seeley Swan High School, Russell Elementary and Frenchtown Intermediary and Elementary Schools.”

Mueller said the object of the open houses is to introduce what is called ‘A Community Change Grant’ which can be used to obtain millions of dollars to update these schools into ‘safe havens’ for the community in case of a severe wildfire.

A Community Change Grant could be for up to $20 Million Dollars

“For this Community Change Grant, an application can be for up to $20 million, and that can really make a difference in the community,” she said. “This technical assistance provides us with over 1,200 hours of work from professionals, including consultants, engineers and architects. They’re really helping us to engage with the communities and figure out what these schools need; create designs for a couple of the school buildings that we’ve looked at and to  help us with that application process so we can have access to this funding for our community.”

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Mueller said even though reservations for the open houses are suggested, anyone is welcome to attend.

They will be held on Wednesday, July 10 in Seeley Lake at the Community Foundation from 4:30 to 6:00 p.m., and then one at the Missoula Fairgrounds in the Floriculture Building Number 15 from 6:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.

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