Seeley Swan Pathfinder -

By Sarah Coefield - Air Quality Specialist
Missoula City-County Health Department Air Quality Program 

Looking Back at Smoke from the Rice Ridge Fire


November 9, 2017

Image by CIRA and NOAA (

Smoke plumes around Missoula from Montana and Idaho seen Sept. 11.

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 led to the extraordinary smoke buildup. Mountain valleys are prone to nightly temperature inversi...

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