Wildfire smoke once again poured into the valleys of Western Montana on Thursday causing a sharp decline in air quality.
Seeley Lake is seeing the brunt of the smoke and on Thursday evening hundreds gathered to hear the latest on the 10,100 acre Rice Ridge fire that is threatening the town.
Evacuations orders have not changed for the Rice Ridge Fire, but residents are being asked to remain vigilant. The waters of Seeley Lake are also still off limits to any recreational use as aircraft are using the lake to help with the firefighting efforts.
Fire managers are urging people in evacuation warning areas to remain prepared and reminded Seeley Lake residents that they aren't out of the woods yet. Authorities caution that upcoming weather conditions are causing concern about fire lines on the south end of the blaze.
“I hope I am making you feel comfortable, but, I got to still make sure you are aware of this because if we have some bad winds, we will be tested down here, and we will throw everything at it," Incident Management Team Operations Chief Keith Murphy said.
The air quality in Seeley Lake was listed as Hazardous again on Thursday morning with health officials urging residents to leave the area because of the continued poor air quality.
The Seeley Lake Community Council meeting scheduled for Aug. 14 has been canceled due to air quality.
The evacuation warning in Seeley Lake runs from south of Rice Ridge Road to Double Arrow Road on the east side of Highway 83.
Fire information booths are still being staffed at the Valley Market and Rovero’s Hardware Store on Highway 83 daily from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. Residents are also being urged to sign up for Smart911 to ensure they receive any emergency messages about potential evacuations.
In the event of an evacuation, the American Red Cross will open a shelter at the Potomac Community Center. The shelter is on standby, anyone seeking to pre-evacuate that requires assistance or sheltering may call the Red Cross of Montana at 1-800-272-6668.