Thursday, August 16, 2018

Pronóstico de Humo para el Cuenca de Columbia Norte 16/8

Breathe a Little Fresh Air... Please!

A lot of Western Washington saw the smoke clear out last night and through this morning.  The air quality is in the Good to Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups range in most western locations and it should clear up even more through today.

PM2.5 Across Washington (8 - 9 am; Thursday)

This westerly flow that we are experiencing should also bring some momentary relief Friday evening for residents in counties like Kittitas, Grant, Benton, Franklin, and Walla Walla.  Neighboring counties may also see a bit of clearing.  Air quality in central and eastern Washington will vary, but with the nearby fires, residents in Chelan, Douglas, and Okanogan counties should expect continued smoky conditions through the weekend.

Unfortunately, these winds also mean there is a potential for fire growth...

And, now for the really bad news, the forecast for Sunday night is for winds from the north which could add more smoke from Canada into the region.

Smoke Outlook for North Columbia Basin 8/16/18

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

A little clearing in Western Washington

Many people in Western Washington are wondering... when will this smoke clear out?  Thankfully we have seen a little clearing start to occur this afternoon. Some monitors in Western Washington are down to Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups and a couple are even down to Moderate.  Most monitors in Western Washington are still in the Unhealthy range due to lingering smoke, but more clearing is expected through tonight and tomorrow.  It may be short lived, but we expect at least a couple days of cleaner air coming up.

Be thankful you aren't in Alberta!  Take a look at the giant smoke storm that traveled east over Canada today.

MODIS Image for 11 am on Wednesday
Fire Locations Shown in Red

Prognóstico de Humo Cuenca para el Cuenca de Columbia Norte 15/8

Don't Tough it Out!

Daycares, camps and school sports practices should be held indoors when the air quality is poor. 

When the smoke levels are unhealthy, it is recommended that outdoor activities be restricted for everyone, especially those in sensitive groups who could have a wide range of health effects. Sensitive groups include those with health conditions, infants, children, pregnant women and people over 65.

Keep smoke out of buildings. If there is no air conditioning, keep it cooler indoors with shades and fans. Remember to stay hydrated.

8/15/2018 British Columbia once again dealing with a very bad wildfire year - and we're getting some of the smoke

The B.C. Canada government declared a state of emergency today (Wednesday 8/15/18) due to wildfires. Approximately 566 wildfires are burning in B.C, with 29 evacuation orders affecting approximately 3,050 people. An additional 18,720 people are under evacuation alert. This is the second year in a row our neighbors to the north have been inundated with fire and smoke and some of that smoke has been heading south to Washington and beyond.

The best air quality models that predict smoke movement and accumulation in the Pacific Northwest, don't include fires and smoke from that far north. Other models do include the fires in Canada although their resolution is not as good so predicting air quality impacts in Washington as affected by smoke from Canada is rather challenging. The satellite photo below, taken yesterday (Tuesday) shows the red "hot spots" marking the large areas of fire in B.C. Fires in Washington can also be seen to the south. Note the magnitude of the smoke accumulation just north of the international border. We've already received some smoke from the north, how much more will travel to Washington in the coming days?

Another satellite photo from yesterday got a really clear view of fires and smoke around Washington. Plumes from the Crescent Mountain and McLeod fires are clearly visible north of Lake Chelan in the Methow Valley area, and the Cougar Creek plume is visible to the south of Lake Chelan closer to the center of the state. Large image available at the link: ModisAqua8_14

North Columbia Basin Smoke Outlook for 8/15/18

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Wildfire smoke can make its way into your home.

To help keep your indoor air as clean as possible, follow these steps.

  • Keep windows and doors closed. Track the outside air quality and open your windows for fresh air when the air quality improves. Pay attention to the heat indoors. Close curtains to reduce heat gain during the hottest part of the day. Use fans to circulate the air.
  • Run an air conditioner, set it to re-circulate and close the fresh-air intake. Make sure to change the filter regularly.
  • Use an air cleaner with a  high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter to reduce indoor air pollution, this will reduce the number of irritating fine particles in indoor air. A HEPA filter with charcoal will help remove some of the gases from the smoke. Don’t use an air cleaner that produces ozone. See California’s air cleaning devices for the home fact sheet (PDF).
  • Don’t add to indoor pollution. Don’t smoke. Don’t use food broilers, candles, incense, fireplaces, or gas stoves. Don’t vacuum unless your vacuum has a HEPA filter, because vacuuming stirs up particles already inside your home.
  • Consider leaving the area if the air quality is poor and it's not possible to keep indoor air clean, especially if you or those you are caring for are having health problems or are in a sensitive group.
  • For more information about keeping indoor air free of smoke: Improving Ventilation and Indoor Air Quality during Wildfire Smoke Events (PDF).
El humo de incendios forestales pudiera entrar en su hogar.  Para que el aire de su hogar se  mantenga lo más limpio posible siga estos pasos.

  • Mantenga las puertas y ventanas cerradas. Manténgase al día sobre la calidad del aire y abra puertas y ventanas cuando mejore el aire. Ponga atención al calor dentro de su hogar. Cierre cortinas para reducir el calor durante las horas más calurosas del día. Use ventiladores para que circule el aire.  

  • Prenda el aire acondicionado, colóquelo en modo recirculación y cierre el ingreso de aire fresco. Asegúrese de cambiar el filtro regularmente. 

  • Utilice purificadores de aire de alta eficiencia (HEPA, high-efficiency particulate air) para reducir la contaminación del aire dentro de su hogar. Un filtro HEPA de carbón ayudará a remover algunos de los gases del humo. No use un limpiador de aire que produzca ozono. Vea los instrumentos de California para purificar el aire (PDF) (solo en inglés). 

  • No contribuya a contaminar el aire en el  interior de su hogar . No fume. No utilice braceros para cocinar, velas, chimeneas o estufas de gas. No utilice una aspiradora a menos que tu aspiradora tenga un filtro HEPA, ya que de esta forma moverá las partículas que ya se encuentran en el interior de su hogar. 

  • Considere salir del área si la calidad del aire sigue mala y no es posible mantener el aire del interior de su hogar limpio, especialmente si está cuidando a personas con problemas de salud o que tengan más sensibilidad al humo.  

Wildfires, smoke, and unhealthy air. How did we get here?

Many difficult questions come up when wildfire smoke fills the air such as: why are the forests burning? are there more fires/larger fires now than we used to see? is this "normal"? And finally can anything be done about it? Paul Hessburg, a Forest Service scientist from Wenatchee, has recorded a 15 minute TED talk that addresses these issues and shows examples of forest changes from our state. You can find it at this link if the topic is of interest:

Unhealthy air for all!

Yesterday turned out to be a bit more smoky in Western Washington than we anticipated.  The smoky air, mostly from Canada, lingered throughout the evening and is still sticking around today.  Western Washington residents should expect Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups to Unhealthy air to persist through today and into tomorrow morning.  Fortunately, forecast models are showing that Wednesday afternoon should see strong enough westerly winds to clear the smoke out and bring Good to Moderate air quality into the region.  There may even be a little relief as early as tonight.

Central Washington residents are not quite so lucky.  We have been monitoring Unhealthy to Hazardous air quality all across the region.  Residents have been hit hard with the combination of Canadian smoke plus the fires on the eastern slopes of the Cascades.  Winds shouldn't bring much more Canadian smoke into the region for the next couple days, but the current smoke will likely linger and local fires will continue to impact the region.  We expect Very Unhealthy air to persist in many areas across Central Washington for the next couple days, with perhaps better conditions in the southern-most counties.

MODIS Satellite Image for 11 am PDT (Fire locations shown in red)
(Note the huge patch of smoke over BC)

Eastern Washington has also been sitting in Unhealthy air which will likely persist.  Forecast models do show somewhat of a split between Northeastern and Southeastern Washington on Wednesday evening.  Residents in Spokane and other parts of Northeastern Washington will probably continue to experience Unhealthy air.   However, the Southeastern counties could get a little better tomorrow night, with perhaps Moderate to Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups air quality.

Washington's PM2.5 (smoke) conditions (11 am - noon PDT)
Please see Current Conditions Here

So, while Western Washington may have lucked out this time with a relatively short-lived smoke event, the rest of the state will likely continue to see smoky conditions in the foreseeable future.  

Please see the Smoke and Health tab of this blog for information about what you can do to protect yourself from wildfire smoke.  For those interested in purchasing indoor air purifiers, see this good NY Times article from last year entitled What to Know Before Buying an Air Purifier to Clear Wildfire Smoke.

North Columbia Basin Smoke Outlook for 8/14/18

Monday, August 13, 2018

8/13/2018 Smoky State overview

Smoke is moving south into the state from Canada plus some of the smoke from fires east of the Cascades has filtered over the mountains into the Puget Sound area. There are other fires in the state contributing to the mix, including the large Grass Valley fire near Grand Coulee Dam but the fires indicated are the ones contributing the most to poor air quality around the state. (Satellite photo from about 2pm this afternoon. Original, large image can be seen here:  ModisAug13)

Where is all this smoke coming from?

A shift in winds over the weekend brought a thick haze from Canada that is covering most of our state.  Fortunately, residents in Western Washington are still experiencing Good air quality, with the exception being places at higher elevations in the Cascades experiencing air quality that is Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups.  Some smoke might make its way from Canada into the Puget Sound lowlands later today and tomorrow, but westerly winds should return on Wednesday and clear out any lingering smoke.

MODIS Image from Sunday afternoon with fire locations shown in red.

Residents in the northern parts of Central and Eastern Washington are experiencing severe smoky conditions due to both local and regional wildfires that are currently burning.  Monitors are showing Unhealthy to Very Unhealthy air quality from Wenatchee to Spokane, with no clearing expected in the near-term forecast.  Light winds from the north are expected to continue throughout the day, which means residents in Yakima, Benton, and Franklin counties could see conditions worsen to Moderate to Unhealthy.  Southeastern Washington may not get too bad, but it won't be surprising if we see Moderate to Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups air quality in Walla Walla, Asotin, and other nearby counties.

PM2.5 Monitors on Monday Morning

The National Weather Service has issued an air quality alert for all of central and eastern Washington.  This will be updated on Wednesday, and we hope southern counties will only be experiencing short-lived smoky conditions.

North Columbia Basin Outlook for 8/13/18

Friday, August 10, 2018

Weekend smoke update: yes it will get better, but there's a catch

Prefer a video chat of the forecast?

Ecology and DNR staff discuss the smoke forecast and health-protection steps you can take:

Prefer the forecast the same old way?

Satellite picture from this morning shows a lot of smoke overhead and fires in the Cascades puffing out a lot of smoke.

The clouds offshore are a harbinger of a cold front that will clear things out by tonight into Saturday. Most of western WA should see Good air this weekend, but there might be some lightning on Saturday so the potential exists for new fire starts.

Much of eastern Washington has been choking and frying all week but will see some improvement, both from smoke and heat. Areas further from the fires are likely to enjoy Good air and this is a great time to throw open all the doors and windows to flush out homes.

Unfortunately areas closer to the fires, especially Chelan and Okanogan counties will only enjoy modest improvements.

Them winds dont come with no string attached. They're strong enough to worsen fire growth. Early next week we're likely to see a return to calmer conditions so fresh smoke will not dissipate easily.

Staying Safe in Extreme Heat and Poor Air Quality: Conversation with Spokane Regional Health District Health Officer, Dr. Bob Lutz

Need your questions answered by Dr. Lutz? Visit SRHD's Facebook page here:

Smoke Outlook for North Columbia Basin 8/10/18

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Smoke layer starts to erode by Friday night. Says "I'll be back"

Western Washingtonians have smelled a little smoke and seen more aloft. At the time of writing, not a single monitor is showing Good air anywhere east of the Cascades. Not a lot of wind movement between now and Friday evening, so smoke will just keep accumulating statewide. Fires are expected to grow.

Expecting some areas of Moderate air in western WA through Friday evening, while eastern WA will just keep seeing its air deteriorating air (Moderate or worse) through early Saturday morning.

A cold front will swing by Friday evening and start to flush out smoke. A windy and cooler weekend is likely in eastern WA, reducing smoke accumulation in most areas but also worsening fire spread.

9AM Thursday vertical smoke
11PM Friday vertical smoke
Here's what the total smoke layer through the atmosphere looks like today and late tomorrow. The cleaning power of nature will be on display in Washington! Oregon/ California smoke (which has mostly stayed aloft) will be less of a concern this weekend.

Expect mostly Good air in most of Western WA this weekend. Areas away from the fires are likely to scrub out (Good air) over the weekend, but increased smoke production from larger fires during frontal passage is likely to keep cities in Chelan and Okanogan counties at Moderate/ USG.

By early next week, still conditions are likely to return, ushering a return to smoke similar to what we've endured this week. Notice also in the figures above how a series of new fires in central British Columbia are producing a lot more smoke. Wind flows by Monday might start moving some of that smoke toward Washington.

In other news:
  1. The US Forest Service has provided Washington with an Air Resource Advisor, who will be producing detailed, localized air quality forecasts for most cities in Chelan and Okanogan Counties, like the one just below this blog post.
  2. New air monitors have been set up in Plain and Newport, with another en route to Republic. Air quality in those areas can tracked on the map above. Here's what the samplers look like. 
Smoke in the background is a solemn reminder of what people in those communities are enduring.

Smoke Outlook 8/9/18 for North Columbia Basin

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

8/8/2018 Status of Wildfires in Washington

Two major fires in Washington are the primary contributors to current air quality impacts east of the Cascades - Cougar Creek and Crescent Mountain are degrading air quality from Twisp and Chelan across the Columbia Basin to Spokane and beyond. Two additional fires near Spokane are adding to the unhealthy air quality in that area. The Miriam fire is sending smoke to the Yakima area. The Maple fire on the Olympic Peninsula is probably contributing smoke to the local area although the nearest monitors are not showing impacts at this point. A summary of major fires in the state follows. Leavenworth looks to be the only monitoring location today east of the Cascades with mostly Good air quality...for now.

Maple. 10 mi N of Hoodsport, WA. Start 8/4. Full Suppression. Cause: Unknown. 286 acres. 5% containment. Active fire behavior. Timber. Steep terrain. Road, area and trail closures. More info. here: and here:
Maple Fire location

Cougar Creek. 25 mi W of Chelan, WA. Start 7/29. Full Suppression. Cause: Lightning. 6,169 acres (+1,751). 0% containment. Active fire behavior. Timber. Road and trail closures. Evacuations in effect. Structures, cultural resources and recreation threatened.More here: and here:
Crescent Mtn. 16 mi W of Winthrop WA. Start 7/29. Point Zone Protection. Cause: Lightning. 7,177 acres (+0). 0% containment. Active fire behavior. Structures, recreation, and timber threatened. Evacuations in effect. Road, area closures. More here: and here:
Ragged Butte. 12 mi E of Bridgeport, WA. Start 8/6. Full Suppression. Cause: Unknown. 1,050 acres. 100% containment. Moderate fire behavior. Grass and brush. Road closures. No growth expected. Last report unless significant activity occurs.

Cougar Creek/Lost, Crescent Mtn., and Ragged Butte fire locations
Miriam. 25 mi SE of Mt Rainier. Start 7/30. Full Suppression. Cause: Unknown. 1,300 acres (+100). 9% containment. Active fire behavior. Timber. Steep terrain. White Pass Ski Resort and T&E species habitat threatened. Evacuations in effect. Road, trail, and area closures. More here: and here:
Miriam fire location
Angel Springs. 7 mi NE of Davenport, WA. Start 8/2. Full Suppression. Cause: Unknown. 5,043 acres (+0). 0% containment. Moderate fire behavior. Timber and bush. Structures threatened. Evacuations in effect. Road and area closures. Continue burnout operations. More here:
Silver Lake. 5 mi W Spokane, WA. Start 8/6. Full Suppression. Cause: Unknown. 300 acres (+200). 20% containment. Moderate fire behavior. Timber and bush. Evacuations in effect. Structures threatened. Road closures. Washington State Fire Mobilization Authorized. Acreage increase due to better mapping.
Angel Springs and Silver Lake fire locations
Sheep Creek.  5 mi NW of North Port, WA. Start 7/30. Full Suppression. Cause: Unknown. 458 acres (+23). 40% containment. Moderate fire behavior. Timber. Steep terrain. Structures, commercial logging, radio repeater site, and lookout tower threatened. Road and area closures. 100% lined. Snaps tampering mop up progressing. More here:

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

8/7/2018 Ways to protect yourself and your family from smoke

Wildfire smoke is in the air and parts of Washington state have been experiencing degraded air quality for days or weeks. The videos below share health advice and actions you can take to minimize your exposure to smoke and protect yourself and your family. The first is in English and the second is in Spanish.

8/7/2018 Public Notice and Air Quality Warning for Colville Reservation area

WA keeps accumulating smoke through Thursday

Puget Sounds Lowlands
Lots of social media pictures of pretty sunsets and crescent moon rises over western WA, courtesy of Oregon and California smoke. Adding to the mix is the Maple Fire, close to Hamma Hamma in the Olympic Peninsula- clearly seen sending a plume of smoke toward Seattle on yesterday's satellite picture.
Thus far most smoke has remained above or to the east of western WA but that seems to be changing. Between Tuesday & Thursday, the Puget Sound lowlands will likely see some combination of smoke from the fires mentioned above, and those along the Cascades' eastern foothills. Not much wind movement until late Thursday to flush things out, so expect conditions to mostly vary between Good and Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups. Some periods of Unhealthy air are likely closer to fires. Good air is expected Friday- Saturday.

Whatcom and Skagit counties
Periodic east winds could bring in smoke from fires in the North Cascades, causing Moderate and USG air on occasion. Higher terrain might also see some California/ Oregon smoke mixing down.

Eastern WA
Sadly, with so many fires and so little wind, Unhealthy air will be quite common in addition to the oppressive heat. No respite through Friday at least, but that smoke clearing comes at a cost: a strong front passing through will worsen fire danger and spread.

Monday, August 6, 2018

Smoke above western WA, smoke everywhere in eastern WA

Air monitors are showing Good air in western Washington for now. Enjoy it while it lasts. Webcams, satellites and upper air data show that smoke from fires in southern Oregon and N. California is already overhead.

Models show some of this reaching the surface, particularly higher terrain in the coming days and air quality could degrade to USG by mid-week.

The forecast is this work week is for hot temperatures and light winds so smoke will not be flushing out easily. If it is any consolation, the upper level smoke blanket will (1) make the heat a tad bit more bearable by shaving off a few degrees, and (2) make for pretty sunsets.

Sunday evening saw a bunch of lightning strikes in the Cascades and we don't yet know the full extent of the damage and where any additional smoke might flow.

Eastern Washington is being hammered by smoke from multiple sources, described in Friday's blog post below. The Methow valley's air has hardly been cleaner than USG all weekend, but that hasnt prevented everyone from taking in what can be seen of the scenery☺.

Assuming smoke production from these fires continues, expect conditions to worsen as the week proceeds. Areas close to fires could see Very Unhealthy air while other areas will vary between Moderate and Unhealthy.

Ozone levels are likely to be high around the Tri Cities Tuesday & Wednesday due to wind patterns, likely worsened a bit by the presence of smoke.

Take home message: it is shaping up to be a challenging week, smoke wise. Please take a moment to familiarize yourself with the health-protection resources on this blog. If you dont have an A/C that can be operated in recirculation mode when it is smoky outside, use an indoor fan instead of opening windows to cool down your home.

Friday, August 3, 2018

8/3/2018 Status of Wildfires in Washington

August 3, 2018

Two wildfires in Washington in particular - Cougar Creek and Gilbert/Crescent Mtn. are emitting significant amounts of smoke which is then combining with smoke from other fires in Washington and Canada to cause air quality problems for northern parts of the Columbia Basin from Chelan and Twisp, to Wellpinit and Colville. The Miriam fire near White Pass and the new Bannock Lakes fire in Glacier Peak Wilderness are worth watching in the coming days. More information on fires in Washington is shown below with links for even more detail when available. 

New Fires

Saddle Mountain. 25 mi S of Moses Lake, WA. Start 8/2. Full Suppression. Cause: Human. 1,000 acres. 49% containment. Minimal fire behavior. Grass and brush. Agricultural and power line infrastructure threatened. Road closure.

Angel Springs. 7 mi NE of Davenport, WA. Start 8/2. Full Suppression. Cause: Unknown. 600 acres. 0% containment. Timber and bush. Structures threatened. Evacuations in effect.

Bannock Lakes. In Glacier Peak Wilderness between Suiattle Pass and Blankenship Mountain. Approximately 7 miles northwest of Holden Village. 20 acres. Monitoring, no team assigned. Burning slowly in heavy timber in inaccessible terrain. Pacific Crest Trail closures in effect.

Ongoing Fires

Miriam. 25 mi SE of Mt Rainier. Start 7/30. Full Suppression. Cause: Lightning. 675 acres (+445). 0% containment. Active fire behavior. Timber. Steep terrain. White Pass Ski Resort and T&E species habitat threatened. Evacuations in effect. Road, trail, and area closures.

Cougar Creek. 25 mi W of Chelan, WA. Start 7/29. Full Suppression. Cause: Lightning. 3,614 acres (+2,055). 0% containment. Extreme fire behavior. Timber. Road and trail closures. Structures, cultural, recreation threatened.

Gilbert/Crescent Mtn. 16 mi W of Winthrop WA. Start 7/29. Point Zone Protection. Cause: Lightning. 5,000 acres (+3,000). 0% containment. Extreme fire behavior. Structures, recreation, and timber threatened. Evacuations in effect.

Sheep Creek. 5 mi NW of North Port, WA. Start 7/30. Full Suppression. Cause: Unknown. 249 acres (+103). 5% containment. Extreme fire behavior. Timber. Steep terrain. Structures, commercial logging, radio repeater site, and lookout tower threatened. Road and area closures.

Smoky Conditions Across NorthEast Washington

Smoke was clearly visible from local fires yesterday, not a good sign of things to come.

VIIRS Imagery from Thurday Afternoon

People across northern Washington, from Omak to the Spokane tribe, woke up to Unhealthy air quality this morning.   Air has even degraded to Very Unhealthy at times, due to smoke from multiple fires being carried east.  

PM2.5 Monitors - Friday Morning

Unfortunately, windy conditions will persist throughout the day, which will likely cause more fire growth and generate even more smoke.  The winds will have the benefit of momentarily clearing out smoke at times, but probably not for long.  The image below shows the path that smoke is expected to travel today, starting at the fire locations shown as red squares.  You can see how the area around the Spokane Tribe Reservation is being hit by multiple plumes!

HYSPLIT Forward Trajectory Forecasts from Fire Locations - Friday Morning

Winds are expected to die down over the weekend, as temperatures increase.  This means that smoke should disperse from Eastern Washington late today but people in North-Central Washington will likely see smoke persist locally around the large fires through the weekend and experience Unhealthy air quality at times.  It's only early August, so this could be just the beginning of persistent smoky conditions.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

8/1/2018 Status of Wildfires in Washington

August 1, 2018

Most of the smoke impacts in Washington so far this year have originated from wildfires outside of the state but that is changing as a few local wildfires of some significance develop. One fire in particular is beginning to cause problems - the town of Chelan is experiencing air quality impacts from the Cougar Creek fire today and evacuations are in effect near Entiat. (More info. on Cougar Creek fire can be found here: )
Cougar Creek Fire. Credit: Don Strand, Fire Behavior Analyst

Fires of Note in Washington right now:

New Fires 
Milepost 90. Wishram, WA. Start 7/31. Full Suppression. Cause: Unknown. 10,000 acres. 20% containment. Active fire behavior. Grass and brush. Evacuations in place.

Ongoing Fires
Cougar Creek. 25 mi W of Chelan, WA. Start 7/29. Full Suppression. Cause: Lightning. 803 acres (+453). 0% containment. Extreme fire behavior. Timber. Trail closures. Structures, cultural, recreation threatened.
Chelan Hills. 2 mi E of Chelan, WA. Start 7/27. Full Suppression. Cause: Unknown. 1,842 acres (+0). 97% containment. Minimal fire behavior. Grass, brush, and timber.  
Warner Gulch. 11 mi SW of Asotin, WA. Start 7/28. Full Suppression. Cause: Unknown. 470 acres. 85% containment. Minimal fire behavior. Grass and brush. Community of Cloverland Ridge, T&E species habitat, timber, wildlife, and agriculture threatened.
HWY 24 Command. 17 mi E of Yakima, WA. Start 7/30. Full Suppression. Cause: Unknown. 1,800 acres (+0). 60% containment. Active fire behavior. Grass and brush. Road and Area Closures.
Sheep Creek. 5 mi NW of North Port, WA. Start 7/30. Full Suppression. Cause: Unknown. 146 acres (+26). 0% containment. Extreme fire behavior. Spotting. Timber. Steep terrain. Timber resources threatened. Dozer line around much of the fire. Finishing line on E side.
Lake Wallula. 5 mi E of Umatilla, WA. Start 7/30. Full Suppression. Cause: Unknown. 12,462 acres. 96% containment. Minimal fire behavior. Grass and brush. Last report on morning briefing unless significant activity occurs.

Important Note
The list of fires above and the map below comes from the local wildland fire Interagency Coordination Center ( which tracks large fires (100+ acres in timber or 300+ acres in grass/brush) and/or incidents with a Type 1 or 2 incident management team assigned. Small fires or new fires won’t show up on their list.

Smoke cleaning cycle in progress. Slow improvement in eastern WA

You've gotta see this in action!

Satellite picture around 10:30AM Tuesday shows smoke ahead of and clear conditions behind the well-defined northwest-southeast oriented frontal boundary over western WA.

Next satellite at about 1:30PM shows how the front pushed further east, clearing smoke in its wake.

Western WA has mostly Good air now, though a new fire on Harstine Island sent light smoke toward Tacoma last evening. This is not expected to continue much longer as crews are reportedly making good progress with this ~20 acre fire. Forecast for western WA is for mostly Good air through the weekend, barring new fires.

Forecast for eastern WA

Gradual clearing has already commenced, with more green dots (= Good air) appearing on the map. Wind speeds will ramp up Wednesday & Thursday, elevating fire growth concerns. Today's satellite pictures show smoke from fires in BC, Okanogan and Chelan Counties spilling lots of smoke into eastern WA. Stronger winds will dilute these somewhat, but some smoke is expected. Here's what the Forest Service's BlueSky smoke model is predicting for Friday (darker red = more smoke; a fire near the Methow Valley is not reflected in this).

Forecast is for mostly Good to air further from the fires through about Sunday, while locations closer to the fires shown above could see conditions deteriorate to Moderate or even USG levels. 

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

The atmosphere has started a self-clean cycle

Western Washingtonians awoke to cleaner air today as marine air started to displace accumulated smoke and usher in a cool-down. The Siberian, Californian and Oregonian smoke taps are being throttled down. All fine particle pollution monitors west of the Cascades have dropped down to Good levels this morning. North Bend still has Moderate air but is clearing out rapidly. This welcome cleaning cycle is poised to reach eastern WA by late today, but there is a caveat. Read on.

Yesterday's satellite picture overlaid with air quality data (Green= Good; Yellow= Moderate) shows smoke from various sources lingering over much of the state, giving rise to Moderate air in many places.

Forecast for western WA
The good news is that we don't expect a return to hazy skies within the next week, as long range forecasts indicate cooler-than-normal temperatures and the possibility of rain in western WA and the Cascades within the next 5-7 days. Yessss!

Eastern WA forecast
The weather pattern shift will indeed help flush out lingering smoke over the next two days, but the catch is that strong winds starting late tonight will enhance fire danger. Depending on fire growth, areas of USG air are possible over the next two days, particularly close to fires. Not expecting areas further from fires to deteriorate beyond Moderate between now and Thursday. Good news is that there wont be a return to hot and dry conditions; cooler temperatures late this week will aid firefighting efforts. Good air is looming on the horizon.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Light smoke over western Washington. It gets worse before it gets better

The light smoke blanketing much of eastern Washington has started to bleed west of the Cascades, further exacerbated by some fairly new fires in particular the Wrong Creek fire close to Mount Rainier. Tacoma, Puyallup and Auburn saw Moderate air on Saturday mostly due to the latter, and North Bend is currently experiencing Moderate air.

Here's the map of lightning over the last 24 hours. Thunderstorms in the Cascades on Saturday might have sparked off new fires but we don't have a handle on those yet. A red flag warning is in effect for the Cascades from now through 11PM on Monday, so fires will likely grow.

Expect a very hot, dry and relatively wind-less Sunday and Monday statewide. What this means for smoke Sunday and Monday:

King, Pierce and Snohomish Counties

Winds will be driven by terrain, meaning smoke will likely drain into communities along the Cascade foothills and perhaps closer to some of the larger cities overnight. Light amounts of that Siberian/ BC smoke overhead may mix to the surface during the day, more so at higher elevations. Expect Moderate air at times, though pockets of USG cannot be ruled out. Air should be mostly Good further west of the Cascades.

Most of eastern WA

Siberian smoke continues to cause Moderate/ USG air in much of eastern WA, with fires along the BC border, the Chelan Hills fire and other smaller fires also contributing. This is likely to continue through Tuesday, with any new fires adding more smoke to the mix. Some areas of Unhealthy air are possible.

When will it clear?

A wind shift and cool down happens in western WA on Tuesday, commencing a slow removal of smoke. Eastern WA has to wait until Wednesday. Winds are expected to be strong during the transition, raising fire growth concerns even as smoke flushes out.

Friday, July 27, 2018

Eurasian, Siberian, Alaskan and BC fires sending smoke over much of the northern US

Long range transport of wildfire smoke in full cry.

Most of Eastern WA has seen Moderate air since Thursday evening when smoke plumes from the north moved over the state. The Cascades has kept the smoke from reaching western WA thus far.

A satellite product showing fine particles throughout the atmosphere (known as Aerosol Optical Depth) looks like this. Yellow  --> Orange --> red = increasing smoke. Lots more smoke sitting to our north!

Forecast for eastern WA

Models suggest that this pattern of northerly flow will continue for a few more days and some of this smoke will continue to mix to the surface. Expect Moderate air during the night and USG-ish during the day throughout much of eastern WA. This is because nighttime temperature inversions act as a lid over the lower atmosphere and prevent smoke aloft mixing to the surface, although smoke already at the surface will continue to linger. More smoke will mix down during daytime.

Areas close to some of the many smaller fires could experience worse conditions. Please take note of the health precautions mentioned on this website.

Tri Cities Ozone

Conditions on Friday and Saturday are conducive for ozone formation, and might be slightly aided by some smoke. Lots of visitors expected at the boat races this weekend, likely adding to the traffic emissions. Moderate to USG ozone levels are very likely, so please do your part to reduce ozone- forming pollutants.

Western WA forecast

Some hints that winds might drive a bit of smoke west of the Cascades. Not expecting conditions to deteriorate beyond Moderate over the weekend. Any smoke that mixes down to the surface isnt expected to dissipate much until Tuesday. 

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Smoke to south, smoke to the north, smoke to the east and then some ozone

First things first. No major smoke impacts in the state right now and air is mostly Good, although there are areas of Moderate air close to fires in eastern WA and over western WA this morning. Here's yesterday's satellite picture overlaid with air monitoring data

Smoke to the south
Mainly from fires in southwestern Oregon, this smoke will remain to our south for the next few days.

Smoke to the north
The same northerly windflow that keeps the Oregon smoke at bay will push the Siberian wildfire smoke closer to Washington. As can be seen above, the northern BC air quality monitors didnt show very poor air yesterday, so a lot of this smoke might just remain aloft. However this morning's readings and satellite pictures suggest some smoke over western Washington, leading to Moderate air. Winds seem to move most of the smoke east of the Cascades but since none of the forecast models are seeing this smoke as yet, it is hard to say how much of it will mix to the surface. Expect air over the metro areas to be a mix of Good, Moderate and Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups through Friday at least.

The northerly flow will last through the weekend so the potential for Siberian smoke- depending on how much of it is present to our north- remains a risk, particularly in eastern WA. Winds shift a bit by Sunday and there might be enough of a southerly vector to transport some Oregon smoke into Western WA by then. Bears watching.

Smoke to the east
Several fires have been detected. One near the Okanogan County/ British Columbia border will likely be sending smoke into the Omak and Methow areas for a few more days. Expect periods of Moderate and USG air.

And finally, elevated ozone levels were observed in the Tri Cities yesterday (minimally influenced by wildfire smoke) and could be present again today. More on that topic in a newspaper article from a few days ago.