Tuesday, September 13, 2016

9/13/2016 Using Prescribed Fire and Measuring Impacts to Air Quality

In the Spring of 2016, the Washington State Legislature passed House Bill 2928, the Forest Resiliency Burning Pilot project. The goal of the pilot project is to examine the role that prescribed fire can play in creating healthier, more resilient forests. Of course prescribed fires produce smoke, so one important part of the pilot is monitoring the quantity and severity of any air quality impairment caused by the prescribed fires.

A major challenge when using prescribed fire is to simultaneously protect air quality from the inevitable smoke that is produced. To the greatest extent possible, prescribed fires are planned for days when winds and weather will keep smoke away from populated areas. Although sometimes the best days to safely use fire in the forests are not the best days to protect air quality.

Most of the proposed pilot burns are in fairly remote parts of the state meaning some small, nearby communities are not well represented by the extensive permanent air quality monitoring network operated by the Washington Department of Ecology. To determine the effect of prescribed burning on air quality in these more remote parts of the state, nine new temporary air quality monitors have been deployed to supplement the permanent monitoring network already in operation. New monitors have been placed in Curlew, Kettle Falls, Sherman Creek Hatchery, Usk, Manson, Plain, Liberty, Naches, and Nile. In addition, permanent monitors in Winthrop, Chelan, and Leavenworth will be scrutinized for smoke impacts from forest resiliency burning (see image below). Many of the temporary monitors now also display on our blog map (above) as triangles.

Washington Department of Natural Resources is leading the effort with the help of many partner agencies and organizations. More about the Forest Resiliency Burning Pilot can be found here: http://www.putfiretowork.org/

New fires in eastern WA. Prescribed burning likely

The Rock Creek fire on SR410 near Cliffdale is causing Moderate air around Naches. Expect air quality to vary between Moderate and Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups overnight in Naches, Yakima, Tieton and Cowiche, with daytime clearing through Friday. The Kittitas valley could see a little overnight smoke from this fire after Wednesday. 

In the lower Colombia Gorge, two fires are burning light fuels near Roosevelt. Areas from Wishram to Lyle will see a some smoke settling overnight, leading to ModerateUnhealthy for Sensitive Groups air.

It should be noted that several prescribed burns are planned throughout the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest in the coming days and weeks, and the public may see smoke as a result. 

Northeast winds blowing across the state will slacken early Wednesday, meaning colder overnight temperatures, calmer winds, and higher relative humidities, aiding fire fighting efforts. We should have less and less smoke as the week wraps up.

Here's a snapshot of the statewide forecast for Wednesday

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Moderate air expected in parts of Chelan county over the long weekend

Winds in Chelan County last evening turned out to be stronger than expected, resulting in Good air quality.

Cloudy skies with moderate winds an occasional showers will be the norm for most of the long weekend. This will keep fire activity in check and also help disperse smoke.

The Buck Creek and Saul fires are likely to cause some smoke impacts nearby, particularly in the evenings and nights. Expect air quality at Coles Corner, Plain, Leavenworth, Wenatchee and Chelan to be no worse than Moderate on occasion. Good air quality is expected during the day.

No major smoke concerns elsewhere in the state.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Smoke in Chelan County

Smoke from the Buck Creek and Saul Fires is draining into Coles Corner and Plain, causing air that is Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups. A south east wind is keeping this smoke from draining into Wenatchee and Leavenworth but a wind shift is expected this evening, so those areas can expect more smoke this evening onward. 

The Suncrest fire is not producing much smoke at this time.

Air quality is likely to degrade to Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups overnight and hover between Moderate and Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups tomorrow. Expect periods of  Moderate air in Chelan.

A more detailed forecast will be posted tomorrow.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Air Quality Advisory - Leavenworth, Peshastin, Cashmere, Wenatchee, and E. Wenatchee

The air quality monitors in the Leavenworth and Wenatchee area are currently registering as “Unhealthy for Sensitive People” and “Moderate” due to smoke from the Suncrest Fire.  According to Department of Ecology the smoke is expected to continue to disperse throughout the day and re-build tonight, but to lower amounts.  The Leavenworth and Wenatchee area is expected to have “Moderate” to “Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups” air quality through Wednesday.


Smoke conditions vary as fire activity and winds change and as smoke moves through the community.  Individuals should take the following precautions if you are affected by the smoke:

·         Check local air quality reports and listen to news or health warnings for your community.

·         Avoid physical exertion.

·         Stay indoors and keep indoor air as clean as possible.  Take the following steps when indoors:

o    Keep windows and doors closed.  If there is no air conditioning and it is too hot to keep windows and doors closed, consider leaving the area.

o    Run an air conditioner (if you have one), set it to re-circulate and close the fresh-air intake.  Make sure to change the filter regularly.

o    Use a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter to reduce indoor air pollution. 

o    Don’t add indoor pollution.  Don’t use candles, fireplaces, or gas stoves.  Don’t vacuum, because vacuuming stirs up particles already inside your home.  Don’t smoke, because smoking puts even more pollution into the air.

o    Some room air cleaners can help remove smoke particles indoors.  More information on air cleaners is available at: www.arb.ca.gov/research/indoor/acdsumm.pdf.

·         If you must be outdoors during smoke events, wear an N-95 respirator mask.

·         If you have asthma or other lung diseases, make sure you follow your doctor’s directions about taking your medicines and follow your asthma management plan.  Call your health care provider if your symptoms worsen.


Short-term symptoms from smoke exposure may include dizziness, headache, difficulty breathing, coughing, excessive phlegm, and nausea.  For specific medical advice please contact your physician.



Chelan-Douglas Health District Air Quality and Fires Webpage: www.cdhd.wa.gov

The latest air quality information is available from the Washington Smoke Information site at: wasmoke.blogspot.com.

To get updates on the Suncrest Fire, visit InciWeb at: inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/4998


Health Effects

General Precautions





People with pre-existing heart and lung diseases may begin to have breathing problems.

People with asthma, respiratory infection, diabetes, lung or heart disease, or have had a stroke should limit outdoor activities.

Unhealthy for sensitive people

Increasing likelihood of adverse health effects for those with pre-existing heart and lung diseases.

People with heart or lung disease, asthma, diabetes, infants, children, adults older than 65, pregnant women, or who have had a stroke should limit prolonged outdoor exertion.


Increased aggravation of pre-existing heart and lung diseases and premature mortality among sensitive populations.  Increasing adverse respiratory effects in general population.

Everyone should limit prolonged exertion.  People with asthma, respiratory infection, diabetes, lung or heart disease, or have had a stroke, infants, children, pregnant women, and adults over 65 should limit time spent outdoors and avoid prolonged exertion.

Very Unhealthy

Significant aggravation of pre-existing heart and lung diseases and premature mortality among sensitive populations.  Significant increase of adverse respiratory effects in the general population.

Everyone should stay indoors, do only light activities, and keep windows closed if it is not too hot.  If you must be outdoors, wear an N-95 respirator mask.  People with asthma, lung and heart disease, or have had a stroke should avoid any outdoor activity or relocate to a “clean-air” area.


Serious aggravation of pre-existing heart and lung diseases. Increased pre-mature mortality among sensitive populations.  Serious risk of adverse respiratory affects in the general population.

Everyone should avoid any outdoor exertion, remain indoors, or if possible relocate to a “clean-air” area.  If you must be outdoors, wear an N-95 respirator mask.


Friday, August 26, 2016

Eastern Washington: fire weather and blowing dust concerns on Saturday (see below for Western WA)

Other than a few places with Moderate air, conditions are mostly Good in eastern Washington now. A strong, dry cold front is projected to blow through the state on Saturday, causing quite a few concerns as illustrated by the following three graphics produced by the National Weather Service in Spokane.

While all this is unfolding, stronger winds will limit plume rise in existing fires, resulting in some smoke north of I-90 on Saturday. Chelan, Wenatchee and the Spokane area could see Moderate air quality from nearby fires but most other areas should remain Good unless new fires foul up the air.

Saturday's front ushers in a pattern shift toward cooler weather over the next few days, with little risk of strong winds and thunderstorms. This bodes well for firefighting efforts and should keep smoke reasonably well dispersed.

Smoke in the South Sound today, expect smoke in the Seattle area on Saturday

Folks in Thurston county and to a lesser extent Lewis and Pierce counties woke up to smoke hanging in the air. This is due to a fire burning on JBLM. Air quality in Lacey reached Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups while other monitors recorded Moderate air.

This situation will abate in the next few hours, when the ground warms up (a heat advisory is in effect today) and mixes smoke through a deeper layer.

Offshore winds are weakening and will switch to westerly this evening. While this will ensure no more smoke from JBLM fires reaches Thurston and Lewis Counties, it also drags in some smoke from the Olympic National Park fires into the South Sound overnight. Moderate air quality is expected.

Some JBLM smoke might make its way to the Tacoma/ Puyallup area tonight and on Saturday. If the fire is still going strong, there could be times when air will be Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups.

On Saturday the winds will be from the southwest, returning Thurston and Lewis county air quality to Good. But this will also place  areas immediately north of Seattle downwind of the Olympic NP fires. Patchy smoke can be expected during the day on Saturday, leading to Moderate air quality on occasion, like this:

Stronger winds on Saturday night and Sunday will help return AQ to mostly Good across western Washington.

Will make a separate post about smoke in eastern Washington

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Spokane Reservation residents: protect your health from wildfire smoke

 EPA Advises Spokane Indian Reservation and Area Residents to Protect Your Health from Wildfire Smoke

Wildfire smoke can cause eye and throat irritation, coughing, and difficulty breathing. Children, pregnant women, elders and those with heart or lung disease such as asthma are more at risk. Even healthy adults can be affected by smoke.

If you smell or see wildfire smoke:
o Minimize or stop outdoor activities, especially exercise.
o Stay indoors with windows and doors closed.
o Don’t run fans that bring smoky outdoor air inside your home, including swamp coolers, air conditioners, whole-house fans or fresh air ventilation systems.
o Change the standard central air-conditioner filter to a medium or high efficiency filter. If you have a wall or window air conditioner, set it to re-circulate. If you have an indoor room air filter set it up in the room where most family members spend time.

If you don’t have air conditioning, protect yourself and your family from heat exhaustion:
o Use cold compresses and cool showers or baths to stay cool.
o Drink plenty of fluids, unless your doctor has told you to limit the amount of fluid you drink. Don’t wait until you are thirsty. Avoid alcohol or sugary drinks.
o Consider moving to a location with air conditioning or leaving the area.
o Do not exercise or do physical activity and wear light-weight and light-colored clothing.
o Watch for signs of heat exhaustion: fatigue, nausea, headache and vomiting.

If you or a family member is affected by smoke, and symptoms worsen or become severe, seek medical attention and consider going to an emergency shelter or leaving the area until smoke conditions improve.

Suzanne Skadowski
Public Affairs Specialist
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Region 10 Pacific Northwest | Seattle
Desk: 206-553-2160  Cell: 206-900-3309