Montana Public Radio

Climate Smart Missoula

Tom Javins holds a HEPA filter used in a DIY home air filter. Javins says his tests show the DIY filters can be safe and effective.
Courtesy Amy Cilimburg / Climate Smart Missoula

Where there’s smoke, there’s not necessarily fire. Montana’s air quality rapidly deteriorated this week, but the vast majority of the wildfire smoke polluting the state’s air is coming from northern California. Researchers are increasingly concerned about the public health impacts of wildfire smoke.

MTPR's Edward O’Brien introduces us to a Montana engineer who researched the efficacy and safety of an inexpensive and increasingly popular "do-it-yourself" home air-filtration system.

Smoke from the Rice Ridge Fire hangs over Seeley Lake, MT, August 2017.
Inciweb

As the number of coronavirus cases in Montana rise, public health officials and researchers say smoke from the upcoming wildfire season could make people more susceptible to catching the virus, and make patient outcomes much more deadly.

Solar panel installation.
Wayne National Forest (CC-BY-2)

The U.N. climate summit is underway in Poland. It's the first international climate conference since the 2015 Paris Agreement.

In 2013 Missoula set a goal: for all municipal operations to be carbon neutral by 2025. It created a roadmap to get there, complete with interim reduction goals for greenhouse gas emissions. And so far, the city’s on track.

A screen capture from montanawildfiresmoke.org, 08-16-18.
montanwildfiresmoke.org

A brand-new website consolidates statewide air quality conditions and serves as a resource for Montanans concerned about the impacts of wildfire smoke.

MontanaWildfireSmoke.org is now live and made possible by a small Missoula-based non-profit called Climate Smart Missoula.

Smoke covers the northwest on Sept. 4 2017.
NOAA

For most Montanans, wildfire smoke is ‘out of sight, out of mind’. It’s been almost a year since smoke pollution filled Missoula County, turning the air yellow and creating a public health crisis for residents. But one air quality expert is urging people to start preparing for the smoke before wildfire season arrives.

As dense smoke from regional wildfires spread through communities across western Montana last summer, public health agencies faced an indoor problem, too: Residents suddenly needed filters to clean the air inside homes and public spaces, but there was no obvious funding source to pay for it.

Ellen Leahy, the health officer in charge of the Missoula City-County Health Department, says in the past, when wildfire smoke polluted the air outside, nobody really talked about air filters.

Amy Cilimburg, the director of Climate Smart Missoula, helped Seeley Lake residents Joy and Don Dunagan get a HEPA air filter through a partnership with the Missoula City-County Health Department, January, 2018.
Nora Saks

This past wildfire season, unprecedented amounts of wildfire smoke in communities across western Montana threw public health agencies a curveball.

Yesterday, we dove into what we know and are still learning about the long term health impacts of exposure to wildfire smoke. Today, we’re looking at what it would take to provide filtered air to the most vulnerable Montanans.

Frenchtown kindergarten teacher Justine Luebke shows off a brand new HEPA air filtration unit that will help purify the air in her classroom.
Nora Saks

Now that fire season has extended into the school year, many western Montana schools have been keeping kids inside because of heavy smoke. But that doesn’t mean they’re breathing clean air. Some community partnerships are springing up to try to get air filters into more classrooms.