Wildfires and smoke have forced changes of venue and cancellations in the week ahead in Seeley Lake and Missoula.
Classes at Seeley-Swan High School will be moved to a building at the Resort at Paws Up starting on Tuesday.
Upcoming events, including the Norman Maclean-themed literary festival in Seeley Lake and the Relay for Life in Missoula, had to make adjustments. The Missoula Symphony Orchestra's annual Ovando Gran Fondo bicycle ride was canceled entirely.
Seeley Lake High classes moved
On Tuesday through Thursday, Seeley-Swan High School classes will be relocated to the Paws Up administrative building, according to a Friday news release from Missoula County Public Schools, which cited the safety threat to students and staff.
The Rice Ridge fire northeast of Seeley Lake has been burning since July 24. As of Friday afternoon, it was just over 37,000 acres, according to Inciweb. The air was listed as Hazardous on Friday, according to the Missoula County Air Quality website.
If there are any changes, MCPS will contact staff and students on Monday by 9 a.m. For more information, the district asks people to contact the school's temporary number, 406-274-0596, and not resort staff.
All students must ride the bus to the school, according to the release. Only seniors who must leave early will get permission to drive to school. Those living in a temporary location or who need to leave school early to go to work should call Principal Kathleen Percoa at the temporary number.
To arrange busing from a temporary housing location, call the school district's temporary number, 406-274-0596. Parents should call 406) 253-1951 regarding their children's attendance.
The release said Owen's bus route will meet at current bus stop locations, and then go to Lindey's Steakhouse, 3129 Montana Highway 83, to pick up students and bring them to the resort. All other Seeley-Swan bus routes are canceled until further notice.
The Seeley Lake bus pickup is at 7:40 a.m. at Lindey’s. Owen’s bus, Don’s bus and Shawn’s bus will pick up at this location. Students should park on the south side of the lot away from the building. The students will be dropped back there after school at approximately 3:50 p.m.
Classes start at 8:15 a.m. and will be dismissed at 3:15. Students and staff will be served lunch by the resort staff.
For more information about directions to the resort building, athletics and activities, competitions and more, consult the fact sheet at mcpsmt.org/seeleyswan.
As of Friday afternoon, classes at Seeley Lake Elementary were scheduled to start at 8 a.m. Tuesday, Sept. 5, according to a notice on the school's website from Superintendent Chris Stout. If the school grounds are still subject to evacuations by Saturday at 5 p.m., school will be postponed until Monday, Sept. 11. For more information, go to sleonline.org or call Stout at 406-396-5880.
Maclean Festival moved to Missoula
The literary gathering In The Footsteps of Norman Maclean is moving all of its events from Seeley Lake to Missoula. Organizers cited the evacuation orders for Seeley issued earlier in the week.
"We felt like we couldn't bring people in," said festival director Jenny Rohrer. "This wasn't the Seeley Lake we wanted people to see."
The fire and weather forecasts also spurred the move for the events on Friday-Sunday, Sept. 8-10. Organizers wanted to give festival-goers coming from out of town some time to re-book their stays.
Fans of Maclean and his classic novella "A River Runs Through It" and his nonfiction account of the deadly 1949 Mann Gulch blaze, "Young Men and Fire," are traveling from around the country and Europe for three days of stories, talks and more centered on Maclean. Screenings to mark the 25th anniversary of Robert Redford's film adaptation were already planned in Missoula. Tom Skerritt, who played the Rev. Maclean, and the movie's creative team will be in attendance. Redford has taped a special presentation for the screenings.
Rohrer noted that nearly all of the festival program will go ahead as planned. In fact, much of it will take place at the First Presbyterian Church, where Maclean's father, the Rev. John Maclean, was a pastor.
"Missoula is an equally meaningful location for the festival because of the family's history here, and we'll take advantage of it," Rohrer said. They're working on assembling a walking tour or printed guide of meaningful Maclean sites around the city.
Festival-goers should note that the gala dinner on Friday, Sept. 8, at the home of Big Blackfoot Riverkeeper Jerry O'Connell will continue as planned.
The festival was first started in Seeley Lake three years ago to celebrate Maclean's legacy. After a long career teaching English at the University of Chicago, Maclean retired and moved to Missoula and built a cabin in Seeley Lake and focused on his on his own writing, publishing "River" and other stories in his 70s.
For the updated schedule of events or ticket information, go to macleanfootsteps.com.
Missoula Relay for Life moves inside
The Missoula Relay for Life hasn't been canceled, but it will no longer be held outdoors. Due to the heavy smoke, the run will take place in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at 3201 Bancroft St. from 4 p.m. to midnight on Saturday, Sept. 9.
Symphony bike ride canceled
Also on Friday, the Missoula Symphony Association announced that its annual bike ride/fundraiser, the Ovando Gran Fondo, has been canceled due to the smoke and fire conditions.
Those who registered for the ride on Saturday, Sept. 9, have been notified. They're eligible for a refund, but the nonprofit association asks that participants consider donating their registration fee. The bicycle ride is the largest fundraiser of the year for the Missoula Symphony Orchestra.
For more information, go to missoulasymphony.org or call 406-721-3194.