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Health impacts of wildfire smoke to be discussed in special foru - KPAX.com | Continuous News | Missoula & Western Montana

Health impacts of wildfire smoke to be discussed in special forum

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MISSOULA - Anyone who remembers the non-stop coughing and watering eyes, or perhaps being stuck inside for weeks at a time, can testify to the smoke impacts from the 2017 fire season. 

However, now we're starting to see some expert research which uses data to confirm what we've all felt in Western Montana -- the health effects of weeks of severe fire smoke.

Last summer's fire season was one of the worst in a decade. Not just because of the number of wildfires and acres that were burnt, but for the severity of the fire smoke which choked Western Montana valleys from the middle of July to the middle of September. 

Much of that problem was made worse because of the concentration of the largest fires in Western Central Montana, with huge blazes like the Lolo Peak Fire and the Rice Ridge Fire pumping tons of smoke into the air every day.

Seeley Lake was especially hard hit, with air quality readings hitting levels air quality experts didn't even think were possible for days on end. Now, researchers are analyzing the actual readings to gauge the harmful effects of the smoke on Montana residents and firefighters alike. 

University of Montana health and human performance Professor Brent Ruby and Clinical Associate Professor of Medicine Paul Smith will discuss "Wildfire Implications for Firefighter and Community Health" on Tuesday night.

The program runs from 7 p.m. until 8:30 p.m. In the University Center Theater on campus and will include a question and answer session. It's part of the UM Alumni Association's Community Lecture Series, which is focusing on wildfires between now and the end of March. 

“Beyond the Headlines: Clearing the Air with Real Evidence” lectures will be held from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. each Tuesday from Feb. 20 until March 27, in the University Center Theater. Each event will include a question and answer session.

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