Seeley Lake Has Worst Air Quality in the State, Hazardous Conditions Caused by Rice Ridge Fire
There was so much smoke in the town of Seeley Lake this morning that the public was warned to stay indoors and to avoid exertion outside. Missoula County Air Quality Specialist Sarah Coefield explains what’s going on.
"The Rice Ridge fire is only three miles from Seeley Lake and it is positioned on a ridge in such a way that, overnight, all of the smoke that is being produced by that fire is going to roll downhill into town as the sun sets," Coefield said. "The smoke that is produced by that fire is coming down and gathering in the Seeley Lake Valley."
Coefield says the Liberty Fire is also pumping smoke into the area when the winds shift direction, and that the dense smoke is making it hard for even the sun to help clear the air.
"Every night, every valley has an inversion of some level, where the cool air from the mountains rolls down and settles on the valley floor. When the sun rises the sun heats it up and that cool air warms up and can rise. But in Seeley this morning, the smoke was thick enough that the sun couldn't penetrate down to the ground to warm it up.
Coefield says this is the first time since 2015 there has been a hazardous air warning in Missoula County and that the problem will likely persist in the Seeley Lake area for many days. The DEQ confirmed that Seeley Lake had the worst air quality of any location in the state with an air quality monitor on Tuesday.