Health officials recommend Seeley Lake residents to leave due to - ABC FOX Montana Local News, Weather, Sports KTMF | KWYB

Health officials recommend Seeley Lake residents to leave due to air quality

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SEELEY LAKE -

Ridge Rice Fire has now burned up to 10,000 acres and has 500 homes at risk.

Thursday night at Seeley Lake Elementary School, fire officials had a public meeting about the fire and gave tips on the hazardous smoke.

Several concerned residents filled the school's gym as they heard first-hand from health officials on the best way to stay safe in the smoke.

For the last two weeks, residents have been on pre-evacuations and have endured what Missoula City-County Health Department called severe hazardous smoke. 

In fact, Air Quality Specialist Sarah Coefield with the health department said they are seeing air quality levels they have never seen before in Missoula County. 

 Coefield added normally they would tell people to stay inside but probably won't help because of the dangerous smoke levels. 

"To be honest indoors is going to be the same as the outdoors. For how thick the smoke is unless you have a really good filter in place,” said Coefield.

She said the very best advice she can give to any of these residents dealing with this smoke is to get away from it.  

"There is no good way to deal with it. A lot of times during the wildfire season typically you can conquer it by staying inside and slowing down activity. But this is such a long term situation and it's beyond what we have ever seen before,” said Coefield.

Besides warning residents of air quality, residents were eager to hear about updates about the Rice Ridge Fire.

Fire Operations Chief, Keith Murphy said there might be some promising winds coming from the West which would help push away the fire into the wilderness.

 But if the winds change their direction to North if can be a different story.

Keith added they have been mainly using helicopters to help fight this fire because of rough terrain.  

Besides fighting the Rice Ridge Fire fire officials are also trying to reduce fuels by removing trees near by. 

Residents under pre-evacuations were also reminded to be packed and ready to go because they could be told to leave at any moment.

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