Libby Fire

A Fire Near Libby, Montana Causes Asbestos Fears

The town of Libby, Montana, just miles from the Canadian border, is the site of one of the worst environmental disasters in the history of the United States. Hundreds who worked and lived in the area have died due to asbestos exposure caused by the asbestos-tainted vermiculite mine located there, owned and operated by W. R. Grace and Company.

Fire Near Libby, Montana Causes Asbestos FearsThe EPA has worked steadily to clean up the area, but some toxic amphibole asbestos still remains. So, it’s natural for locals to begin to worry when something happens that can cause the remaining asbestos fibers to permeate the air.

That certainly is the case right now, as firefighters continue to battle a 46-acre blaze that’s hovering just a few miles northwest of Libby along Highway 37 and only a mile-and-a-half from that dangerous vermiculite mine.

It’s a disaster waiting to happen and could be a real health hazard not only for locals but for firefighters as well.

Station KRTV News reports that the U.S. Forest Service is taking preventative measures to ensure employee health and safety, doing their best to help those involved in fighting the fire to avoid asbestos exposure.

These extra measures include providing personal protective equipment for firefighters, including special breathing apparatus, to protect against potential exposure to asbestos-contaminated dust and ash.

For firefighters, this equipment is essential in such a scenario.

In addition, The Lincoln County Asbestos Resource Program says they are beginning to prepare for air testing and will immediately begin to monitor air quality if and when they believe it’s necessary.

If the fire comes much closer to the mine, chances are that testing will begin.

In the meantime, local officials are helping area residents and visitors to avoid getting too close to the blaze AND to potential asbestos by closing a number of roads in the area as well as the Kootenai National Forest, one of the prime tourist attractions in the region, popular with nature lovers.