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By Karen Salomon
Seeley Lake, Mont. 

Comments Insult to Firefighters and Public Health Officials


August 17, 2017

I was pleased to read an article in the Great Falls Tribune on Aug. 11 that reported on the forest fire situation in the Seeley Lake area. I am a resident of this town and I can unequivocally state that this natural disaster has had a tremendous impact on both residents and businesses since the end of July.

We are extremely grateful for the quick response and assistance of the Forest Service, Incident Response Teams and the firefighters they bring, and of course, the various Missoula County Public Service officials. This is an extremely serious and frightening situation and Incident Commanders and other officials do their very best to keep us informed with current and accurate updates.

I want to particularly address the comments made in the Tribune article regarding the air quality in Seeley Lake. The reporting was accurate and consistent with what the Public Health Department and the Missoula Air Quality staff has reported to us. Simply put, the smoke has resulted in hazardous levels of toxins in the air and it is recommended to leave the area to avoid breathing these toxins.

The article also interviewed a Seeley Lake resident, Bonnie Philliber, who also is co-owner of the Double Arrow Ranch and Resort. I was shocked, angry, and extremely disappointed in her comments, which alluded that the dismal air quality was an exaggeration and “threats from the smoke and fire were overblown.”

Ms. Philliber’s comments were an insult to the brave firefighting teams risking their health and safety to protect all of us, which includes the “beloved” Double Arrow Ranch. She also insulted the Missoula County Public Health authorities, who I would surely guess are much more familiar with air quality data and interpretation than she is.

Please do not be misled by her statements. This is a serious situation and multiple resources are being used to fight this fire.

Seeley Lake businesses are open, more than happy to accommodate their customers. We are all hoping and praying that our little piece of paradise will be saved and the clear blue skies and fresh mountain air we so love will return again. The news reports and air quality data speak for themselves. We need to respect these and pay attention.


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