Articles written by Sarah Coefield


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  • Tips to clean indoor air, stay healthy this wildfire season

    Sarah Coefield, Air Quality Specialist, Missoula City-County Health Department|Jul 14, 2022

    It's Wildfire Smoke Ready Week in Missoula County! I know - after such a cool start to the season, it's challenging to shift gears and start thinking about wildfires. But this week of warm, sunny days is ushering us closer to our traditional wildfire season in Western Montana and that means smoke. Smoke season in our area spans late July through early September. Happily, it is rarely smoky during that entire period but even a week or two of smoke can be a major bummer. In addition to obscuring...

  • Missoula County Wildfire Smoke Ready week, July 9-16

    Sarah Coefield, Air Quality Specialist, Missoula City-County Health Department|Jul 7, 2022

    If there’s one thing Montanans are good at, it’s prepping for whatever nature can throw at us. We carry bear spray in the woods. We keep blankets, shovels and water in our cars. We have flashlights and candles stashed around our homes. And these days, we have a hefty supply of replacement furnace and HEPA air filters stowed away, ready for the next time wildfire smoke rolls into town. If that last sentence left you scratching your head, we’ve got you covered! This July 9-16 is Missoula County’s Wildfire Smoke Ready Week! It’s a week dedicated...

  • Wood stove heating season, burn clean, more efficient

    Benjamin Schmidt and Sarah Coefield, Air Quality Specialists, Missoula City-County Health Department|Nov 25, 2021

    SEELEY LAKE - Seeley Lake's winter air quality has improved since the community successfully replaced more than 160 old wood stoves with new, lower emission stoves during the 2012-2014 wood stove change out program. The Seeley Lake "Number of Winter Day Over 24-Hour PM2.5 Standard" graph shows that PM2.5 concentrations are trending down over the last nine winters. (Note: The winter of 2016-2017 had a long-lasting high-pressure ridge that caused high PM2.5 levels throughout western Montana.)...

  • Tips for staying healthy this wildfire season

    Sarah Coefield, Missoula City-County Health Department Air Quality Specialist|Jul 15, 2021

    It’s Wildfire Smoke Ready Week and we’ve already had our first taste of what looks to be a long wildfire season. As I wrote last week, wildfire smoke is bad for everyone and it comes inside. Fortunately, there are simple steps we can all do to protect our indoor spaces and reduce our exposure outside! Homes and small businesses: Forced air for heating: 1. Close doors and windows. 2. Install the highest efficiency filter your system can use (preferably MERV 13 or better, but MERV 11 or 12 will work). 3. Turn on the fan and keep it on while you...

  • Wildfire Smoke - Ready Week is July 12 - 18

    Sarah Coefield, Missoula City-County Health Department Air Quality Specialist|Jul 8, 2021

    Summer is here, and we’re speeding toward what could be a gnarly fire season. This means a few things: 1. Don’t cause fires. 2. Get outside and recreate while the recreating’s good. 3. Make a plan now for creating cleaner indoor air and protecting your health from wildfire smoke! Aside from a smoky week in September 2020, we’ve skated by with little wildfire smoke for the past few years, so some of us may be out of practice when it comes to fussing about air quality. New to the area? Welcome! Go buy an air filter. Our summers are hotter...

  • Answering frequently asked questions about outdoor burning

    Sarah Coefield, Missoula City-County Health Department Air Quality Specialist|Mar 4, 2021

    This past winter and fall we measured more smoke at the Seeley Lake air quality monitor than we have for several years. Since Oct. 1, there have been 11 days when smoke pollution exceeded the National Ambient Air Quality Standard. While smoke from wood stoves continues to be the primary driver of smoke pollution in the area, there were four days during the fall outdoor burning season in which smoke from outdoor burns likely contributed to poor air quality. With outdoor burning opening on March 1st, we wanted to take this opportunity to answer s...

  • Are you ready for wildfire season?

    Sarah Coefield, Missoula City-County Health Department Air Quality Specialist|Jul 16, 2020

    The predictive meteorologists with the Northern Rockies Coordination Center are expecting above-average fire activity for our region in August and September. Things are heating up out there, and July will be over sooner than any of us would like. As we prep for a potentially bad fire season, and therefore bad smoke season, I have a question: Do you know where your air filters are? Hopefully, last year you stocked up on efficient furnace filters for your HVAC or HEPA filters for your portable air cleaners and you’re ready for this year. If n...

  • Answering some frequently asked questions about outdoor burning in Missoula County

    Sarah Coefield, Missoula City-County Health Department Air Quality Specialist|Mar 12, 2020

    Outdoor burning opened in Missoula County on March 1st, and it’s off to a fair clip. As of March 6th, more than 900 folks have purchased their permits and we’ve recorded more than 260 burn activations. In a typical year, we issue between 4,000 and 4,500 burn permits and record 10,000 to 12,000 burn activations. We wanted to take this opportunity to answer some questions we encounter about Missoula’s outdoor burning program. Do I need a permit to burn my yard waste? What about for my hazard reduction project? Yes! All outdoor burning requi...

  • Looking Back at Smoke from the Rice Ridge Fire

    Sarah Coefield - Air Quality Specialist, Missoula City-County Health Department Air Quality Program|Nov 9, 2017

    Simply put, 2017 was the worst wildfire smoke season we have seen in Missoula County. Of course, anyone who lived in Seeley Lake during the Rice Ridge Fire already knew that. It's not uncommon for a community near an active fire to see heavy smoke, especially during periods of rapid fire growth. The smoke in Seeley Lake, however, continued to return and build, night after night, even on days that didn't see dramatic fire activity. The proximity of the Rice Ridge Fire and the valley's topography...

  • Seeley Lake Air Quality Update

    Benjamin Schmidt and Sarah Coefield, Missoula City-County Health Department Air Quality Specialist|Feb 9, 2017

    SEELEY LAKE - The 2016-2017 winter has been a cold snowy affair for western Montana. Because of the colder-than-usual temperatures, people are burning more wood to heat their homes and the temperature inversions are more persistent than in recent years. These factors have contributed to a large number of days over the particulate standard. So far this winter, the Seeley Lake air monitoring station has measured 32 days over the national ambient air quality standard for particulate matter in the...

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