By Amy Cilimburg and Mary Sullivan
For a week in July we were out in our community, with our partners, for our 2nd annual Wildfire Smoke Ready Week, spreading the word about what we can all do to stay healthy when smoke rolls into our valleys. This year, our cool, wet start to summer means we’ve yet to see smoke from local fires, but with our geography, smoke from afar makes its way into our airshed. Our summer, regionally, is also heating up and drying out fast. With whiffs of wildfire smoke this week, now is the perfect time to get ready.
This post follows an earlier piece in the Missoula Current series (here) - with Trivia!
Usually community members are the ones asking us the questions this week - and thanks to all we’ve learned over the past few years, we’ve plenty of answers. This year, we thought it would be fun for us to ask you the questions. This past Wednesday at Imagine Nation Brewing, we tested our community’s knowledge of all things smoke-related at our first-ever Wildfire Smoke Trivia Night. The "Hotter Every Year" team sneaked out the win for some great prizes (INB beer + filters). The "Smoldering Ash Holes" won ice cream for the best team name!
Here are a few of the questions that stumped the crowd - Can you guess correctly? (Answers at end).
If those questions left you feeling unsure about your smoke-smarts (or feeling like high school human biology class might as well be the ancient past), fear not! It’s never too late to become an expert! Read on and click through the links for more. You too can dazzle your friends at your next cocktail party or BBQ, and you’ll feel confident you know what to do if and when the smoke descends.
If you know Missoula County Air Quality Specialist Sarah Coefield, you know she’s a woman of many, many words, and this week she’s written five(!) brief articles with what you need to know to prepare for smoke. We have them all in one place - visit WildfireSmokeReadyWeek.org for these great posts:
And to keep with the Q&A theme, we have these simple tips:
Q: How do I know how bad the air is?
A: Bookmark todaysair.mt.gov, check it, and learn the air quality rules of thumb. You can also visit fire.airnow.gov to see smoke data across the country.
Q: What’s the best way to create clean indoor air when it’s smoky outside?
A: Purchase a HEPA portable air cleaner (PAC) or build a DIY fan + filter combo
Q: Can I go outside when it’s smoky?
A: Reduce time and avoid intense physical activity outside.
Q: What else can I do to help myself and others when it’s smoky?
A: Check in on your friends and neighbors and support our community.
This last Q&A is critical. Smoke can have real mental health impacts, as well as physical. And with a longer, more severe wildfire smoke season thanks to climate change, there’s the double whammy of worry. When we feel overwhelmed it can help to look for ways to be a part of community efforts. This summer we encourage you to:
Wildfire Smoke Ready Week is brought to you by Missoula City-County Health Department, Climate Smart Missoula, United Way of Missoula County, Missoula County Sustainability, Missoula County Office of Emergency Management, and Missoula County Fire Protection Association.. We are grateful to everyone who is a a part of Wildfire Smoke Ready Week and this community.
And the right to protect all from the existential threat of climate change.
We at Climate Smart believe in building a livable, safe future for all. The world we're working to build every day is one where the great diversity of humanity and the ecosystems on which we depend don't merely survive, but thrive. That's why we can't ignore issues of human rights, equity and justice that deeply impact all of us - especially those who have been historically excluded and oppressed, or are already most vulnerable to the dangers of an unstable climate.
As individuals whose own bodies and choices are affected by the ruling on reproductive rights, our team grieves how our siblings across the country will be impacted, both immediately and in the long term. Our fight for a climate-safe world is interwoven with the fight for protecting the rights of individuals and communities to determine their own futures. We are intimately aware of how recent Supreme Court rulings threaten those rights, particularly for women and for tribal communities. And with today's devastating ruling gutting the EPA's key tool for cutting carbon emissions, the uphill climb to solve the climate crisis just got steeper. (We'll share more thoughts on this soon.)
As we wrote in our Sustainable Missoula column recently, with so much going on in the world it's easy to feel disconnected and despairing. The antidote is to become agents of connection everywhere we go: calling out the ways climate and justice issues intersect; finding solutions that build a healthier AND more equitable planet; and building the political will and solidarity as a wider community to advocate for transformative change. We're committed to this work long term, and hope you'll join us.
Abby & the Climate Smart team