Tuesday, October 30, 2018

See you in Summer 2019!

The 2018 Washington wildfire season is behind us, and we couldn’t be happier to see it end! 

As much as we wish to never have another wildfire season, we’re prepared to return to this blog around July 2019 with smoke information, current conditions, forecasts, health tips, and more. 

In the meantime, here’s information and contacts for your off-season inquiries.

Current air quality conditions

The air monitoring map on this blog displays current data and is active all year long. Mobile users can find it here. For additional monitors, view the Air Quality Now tab.

Local air quality contacts

Have questions about smoke or air quality issues today? Contact your local clean air agency. Phone numbers, websites, and a printable map are available here. Also view the Local Gov tab for additional county contacts including local health, emergency management, and sheriff’s offices. For emergencies, please call 911.


Current fires on the map

If you see fires on the monitoring map during the off-season, those are likely silvicultural prescribed fires. View a daily list of prescribed burn details from the Washington Department of Natural Resources.

Be prepared for next wildfire season 

Get a jump on next wildfire season by reviewing the Washington Department of Health’s tips for protecting you and your family during smoke. Also view EPA's fact sheet "Prepare for Fire Season" for a checklist of steps to do now.

Blog survey results

Thank you to all who participated in our smoke blog customer survey in August. Here are the results of your feedback

Many, many thanks

This blog is due to great partnerships between several Washington agencies and federal teams. A giant thank you to Ranil Dhammapala, Farren Herron-Thorpe, and Matt Kadlec at Washington Department of Ecology; Janice Peterson and Marlin Martinez at the U.S. Forest Service; Teresa Lohr, Julie Fox, and Cris Lab at Washington Department of Health; all the hardworking Air Resource Advisors in the field; and many others who worked tirelessly to get information out there every day. We are grateful for their commitment and dedication to our Washington communities. 

We also thank you for your questions and comments, and for sharing this information with your neighbors. 

Have a wonderful winter and spring in our beautiful state of Washington. Breathe well.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Rain this weekend! Bad news for fires.

Good air quality has been sustained across the state for several days now thanks to some precipitation, cooler temperatures, and increased relative humidity.  Significant precipitation is expected this weekend too, which will further reduce any remaining fire activity.  Clear skies are expected next week but the summer weather is done for this year.  We are even starting to see some agricultural and prescribed burns in places, which indicates that the summer wildfire season is on its way out the door.

Fire activity on the eastern slopes of the Cascades has been minimal. The light rain on Tuesday helped increase containment of fires like McLeod and Crescent Mountain. Some light smoke and fire activity will still be visible in parts of Okanogan County (e.g. Pasayten, Twisp) as stumps, downed logs, and other ground fuels continue to smolder.  Expect Good air quality for the next few days with some intermittent Moderate conditions immediately downwind of smoldering fires. 

Southwesterly winds are expected in Northeastern Washington over the next couple days.  So we shouldn't see much of any smoke from the nearby fires in Canada and Idaho that are still lingering.  Expect Good air quality, though some small fires in the area have been pushing the Newport monitor into the Moderate category at times.

Air quality around Yakima is Good but the Miriam fire is still experiencing a little growth.  This means that residents in Yakima county that are immediately downwind of the fire may see some intermittent Moderate conditions.


PM2.5 Monitor Dot Map for Wednesday (1 pm)

Friday, September 7, 2018

It's blowing away this weekend. Well, almost

Western WA is largely free of smoke and will stay that way through early next week. Some light smoke from the Maple fire could potentially hit areas north of Seattle, but not expecting anything worse than spotty, short-lived Moderate conditions.

Weekend forecast for eastern WA
Southwest winds are picking up but haven't yet delivered much clean air yet. Present air quality runs the gamut from Good to Unhealthy. More greens will start appearing on the map as the day progresses, starting from the southwest. However some fire growth is expected as winds ramp up.

The southwest winds will die down on Saturday, allowing smoke from fires in the Washington Cascades to flow into nearby communities. Chelan and Okanogan Counties are likely to take a beating again (sorry!) and there is an Air Quality Alert through Sunday morning to address this. Air could be as bad as Very Unhealthy at times.

Eastern WA will also lie downwind of Oregon wildfires this weekend, although models are not advertising large smoke intrusions. Winds pick up again on Sunday with the possibility of some rain (YEAH!!!), alleviating air quality concerns somewhat. Here's what the UW weather models show for 24-hr total precipitation, ending at 5AM Monday. Over 1" in high terrain! Too optimistic?


All in all, areas to the south and east of a line from Goldendale to Spokane can expect mostly Good air this weekend. Yakima to Wenatchee could see periods of Moderate or even Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups. Other than Chelan and Okanogan, north central and north eastern counties could see air ranging from Moderate to Unhealthy. Air quality will be better further from the Cascades.

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Smoke in eastern WA until Friday, west side starts to clear Thursday

Some minor tweaks to the forecast issued yesterday:
  1. A new-ish fire near Mt. Rainier (Wrong Creek) is pumping smoke into the south sound
  2. Strong-ish winds on Friday will increase fire growth in eastern WA
  3. Seems like the clearing is being slowed down slightly.
Here's the satellite picture from this morning (click for 1-2PM animation).

Notice how smoke has filled many of the Cascade valleys. The animation shows some smoke plumes have started blowing eastward this afternoon. Problem is, surface level winds are still easterly and will likely remain so until early Thursday. It will then take several hours to clean out western WA, so expect air to remain Moderate to Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups.

It will be Friday AM before eastern WA starts to scrub out, leaving many areas with Unhealthy or worse air. As the front drags through eastern WA:
  1. Strong-ish winds will fan the flames and likely increase fire growth
  2. Some Oregon smoke could clip southern and southeastern WA, perpetuating Moderate/ USG conditions
A return to Good air is likely over the weekend, save for areas very close to large fires.

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Smoke returns to eastern WA, western WA on track to get a whiff. Improvement on Thursday

Active weather over the last week helped most of the state breathe easy. But much of eastern WA took a turn for the worse last night with fine particle pollution levels ranging from Moderate to Unhealthy. Wildfires in Okanogan County and BC (just north of Stevens County) are the main culprits.

Here's what the latest satellite picture looks like.
A thin layer of smoke covers much of eastern WA, with denser plumes closer to the above mentioned areas (partially obscured by upper level clouds).

Forecast for eastern WA
Winds will die down and allow smoke to start accumulating later today through Thursday morning. This could lead to areas of Very Unhealthy air in parts of Okanogan and Stevens Counties. Unhealthy conditions currently seen in Spokane are likely to improve slightly as winds turn northeasterly.

Here's what the Canadian FireWork model is predicting for 2PM Wednesday (left) and 5AM Thursday:
 

Not expecting much clearing until late Thursday, but by then we might have smoke from fires to our south brushing by south central and southeastern WA. So don't bank on the air getting much cleaner than Moderate, anywhere in eastern WA before Friday.

Western WA forecast
As can be seen from the model predictions above, some smoke from fires in the Cascades is likely to drift into western WA (more pronounced north of Seattle). This could start as early as this evening, so don't be surprised if today's sunset evokes bad memories. But take heart: it wont be as bad as what we endured recently! Expect improvement by Thursday morning.

Monday, September 3, 2018

9/3/2018 Air quality forecast for the North Columbia Basin area

*This outlook was produced through the support of the Okanogan/Wenatchee National Forest and the Incident Management Teams working on local fires to help inform nearby communities of smoke impacts.


Sunday, September 2, 2018

9/2/2018 Active fires on the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest

Update on active fires in the Okanogan-Wenatchee NF.
The three largest fires in Washington are the McLeod, Crescent Mountain, and Cougar Creek fires. The Crescent Mountain fire remains the most active and smoky of the three and continues to impact air quality in the area at times with Twisp (and likely Carlton) as the hardest hit. Winds have been predominately from the NW moving smoke to the SE sparing Winthrop from Crescent Mountain smoke. Smoke production from the McLeod fire has lessened recently since it is showing much less activity and air quality in Winthrop has improved as a result. Smoke from the Cougar Creek fire has also reduced significantly as the fire is brought under control but smoke continues to affect Plain and Entiat at times depending on wind speed and direction.

Tonight winds will strengthen from the passage of a cold front and firelines will be tested. Winds will shift direction to be more northerly moving smoke to the south although brisk wind speeds should prevent smoke from accumulating.

Overview of the 3 largest fires in Washington.

Close up look at Crescent Mtn. fire and nearby communities.


9/2/2018 Air Quality Outlook for the North Columbia Basin area

⇒A statewide smoke and air quality forecast for the Labor Day weekend is available here:  https://wasmoke.blogspot.com/2018/08/statewide-smoke-forecast-for-labor-day.html

*This outlook was produced through the support of the Okanogan/Wenatchee National Forest and the Incident Management Teams working on local fires to help inform nearby communities of smoke impacts.


Saturday, September 1, 2018

9/1/2018 Air quality outlook for the North Columbia Basin area

⇒A statewide smoke and air quality forecast for the Labor Day weekend is available here:  https://wasmoke.blogspot.com/2018/08/statewide-smoke-forecast-for-labor-day.html

*This outlook was produced through the support of the Okanogan/Wenatchee National Forest and the Incident Management Teams working on local fires to help inform nearby communities of smoke impacts.

Friday, August 31, 2018

8/31/2018 Air quality outlook for the North Columbia Basin area

*This outlook was produced through the support of the Okanogan/Wenatchee National Forest and the Incident Management Teams working on local fires to help inform nearby communities of smoke impacts.


Thursday, August 30, 2018

Statewide Smoke Forecast for Labor Day Weekend

Fire activity has decreased significantly this past week, so smoke should be limited to areas immediately downwind of smoldering fires. With no big warm up expected and moist overnight humidity, fire growth should be minimal.  Furthermore, there is potential for rain in British Columbia (including Vancouver Island) Sunday night and Monday which could further decrease wildfire activity there.  Most areas of Washington state should have Good air quality this Labor Day weekend.

Western Washington:
It will be relatively cloudy and cool over most of Western Washington for the next couple days, but Sunday should be mostly sunny in the low to mid 70s.  Monday morning has the potential for some light rains, especially as you get closer to the Canadian border.  Air quality should be Good to Moderate in most places for the weekend.

Central and Eastern Washington:
Due to the proximity to local wildfires, we continue to see air quality fluctuate between Moderate and Unhealthy in areas like the Methow Valley, Pasayten, and Chelan.  This will likely continue through the weekend.  Some of the smoke from fires in the Cascades even made its way across the Columbia Basin and into Spokane early this morning.  Air quality was Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups, and a little worse for a few hours. That smoke has mostly cleared, but the Spokane area could potentially see more of these short smoky events over the weekend.  Air quality in the Columbia Basin and Northeastern Washington should mostly be in the Good to Moderate range this weekend, but there could be some intermittent smoke impacts that get into the Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups category. Southern counties in particular can expect continued Good to Moderate conditions.

There is some fire activity north of Stevens county in Canada that could carry smoke into Northeastern Washington on Saturday and cause Moderate to Unhealthy conditions.  Any of that smoke should clear out by Sunday with the expected southwesterly winds.

Sunday and Monday will feature high temperatures in the upper 70s to mid 80s for most areas.
Overall, expect dry and comfortable weather through Labor Day, with enough winds in the afternoons to provide good ventilation.



8/30/2018 Air Quality Outlook for areas in the North Columbia Basin

*This outlook was produced through the support of the Okanogan/Wenatchee National Forest and the Incident Management Teams working on local fires to help inform nearby communities of smoke impacts.


Wednesday, August 29, 2018

8/29/2018 Air Quality Outlook for areas in the North Columbia Basin

*This outlook was produced through the support of the Okanogan/Wenatchee National Forest and the Incident Management Teams working on local fires to help inform nearby communities of smoke impacts.


Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Methow valley backsliding, King & Pierce counties not up to spec

Just to be clear, the title applies to current smoke levels.

Here is this morning's satellite picture showing areas of smoke (clouds are whiter, smoke is light gray).
Light smoke, mostly from BC drifting over the Puget Sound lowlands is causing some areas of Moderate air around the central Sound. Chelan and Okanogan County fires are fouling up the Methow and nearby communities but thankfully haven't returned those areas to the conditions they saw last week.

Though you can't see it clearly, Vancouver Island fires are sending a plume that is sitting offshore waiting to come inland when the winds turn west/ southwest on Wednesday. The Canadian FireWork model seems to be the only one getting most of these details right, so here's the prediction for Wednesday afternoon (left) and Thursday morning (right), as the winds shift:

What this means for western WA
It is possible that air will be compromised in southwest WA and the central Sound on Wednesday, but we're not expecting anything worse than Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups. Expect Good air by Thursday morning.

Eastern WA forecast
Except for areas close to major fires, we don't expect large-scale intrusions of smoke on Wednesday. Northeastern WA including Spokane might see a few hours with Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups on Thursday caused by transient plumes, but that will be followed by mostly Good air.

Please check back on Thursday for a Labor Day weekend smoke forecast.

Finally, we'd like to thank our readers for responding to the survey posted yesterday, and for flooding us with notes of appreciation. We will do our best to incorporate your suggestions into the smoke blog and forecasts. Feel free to complete the survey if you haven't already.

8/28/2018 Air Quality Outlook for the North Columbia River Basin

*This outlook was produced through the support of the Okanogan/Wenatchee National Forest and the Incident Management Teams working on local fires to help inform nearby communities of smoke impacts.


A version of the Outlook with live links is available here: LINK

Monday, August 27, 2018

While you're enjoying that clean air, we'd appreciate some feedback

Wow, does anyone remember when we last saw so many green dots across the state's air quality monitoring map? The clouds, wind and drizzle over the weekend got us great bang for the buck and reduced fire activity in the Cascades and also in British Columbia.

Since there is no imminent danger of returning to the terrible conditions we've all endured, we're asking you to please take a moment and send some feedback on this blog. Our aim is to provide the public with wildfire smoke-related air quality information, and we'd like to make sure we're doing that effectively.

This survey will take no more than 5 minutes to complete. Thank you very much!

08/27/2018 Air quality outlook for areas in the North Columbia Basin.

*This outlook was produced through the support of the Okanogan/Wenatchee National Forest and the Incident Management Teams working on local fires to help inform nearby communities of smoke impacts.


Sunday, August 26, 2018

Sunday Update for Washington State

The cooler weather, onshore winds, and scattered rain will continue today as the clouds move east.  We should be back to clear skies on Monday afternoon and Tuesday.  Not for long though!  More cloudy and cool weather is expected to roll in on Wednesday.   Thanks to the weather, many Washington residents will continue to see relatively good air quality today and beyond.  However, it can be difficult to assess fire and smoke activity with all these clouds since satellites do not have a clear view.

Most of Western Washington is experiencing Good air quality, but a fire on JBLM has been sending smoke north and causing Moderate to Unhealthy air quality around the Seattle area.  The fire is contained but could continue to generate modest smoke that impacts nearby cities.

Northerly winds are expected on Monday, which could blow a little Canadian smoke into our state, but nothing like we saw earlier this year.  Residents in the Spokane area could also see smoke blow in from Idaho and Montana.  It should be short lived though, since Tuesday's forecast shows westerly winds are expected for the coast and southerly winds for Eastern Washington.

All in all, sporadic rain and shifty winds should keep air quality pretty good in our state, but if you are downwind from a fire you should expect some smoke.

Large Washington Fires:

McLeod, Cougar Creek, and Crescent Mountain in the North/Central Cascades are the largest fires in the state and continue to send smoke to various parts of Central and Eastern Washington.

The Boyds fire in Ferry county and the Horns Mountain fire in Stevens county have been impacting northeastern Washington, including Spokane.

The Maple fire on the southeast side of the Olympic National Park has seen minimal growth (currently 2,150 acres).

The Miriam and Meninick fires continue to generate moderate smoke for Yakima county.

PM2.5 monitors on Sunday (10 am)

8/26/2018 Air Quality Outlook for the Northern Columbia Basin

*This outlook was produced through the support of the Okanogan/Wenatchee National Forest and the Incident Management Teams working on local fires to help inform nearby communities of smoke impacts.


Saturday, August 25, 2018

8/25/2018 Air Quality Outlook for areas in the North Columbia River Basin

*This outlook was produced through the support of the Okanogan/Wenatchee National Forest and the Incident Management Teams working on local fires to help inform nearby communities of smoke impacts.



Friday, August 24, 2018

Smoke Update for Washington State

The westerly winds cleared out all that stagnant smoke across the state yesterday, as expected.  Most of us in Washington have been able to get at least a few hours of Good air at times.  We are seeing less severe air quality problems around the state, with more localized patterns coming into play.  There is also some significant rain expected for the North Cascades on Sunday which is always welcome this time of year!

Western Washington
The Vancouver Island fires continue to generate smoke that is causing Moderate to Unhealthy smoky conditions at times around the west and north coastal areas of the Olympic Peninsula.  Port Angeles looks to be getting the worst of it.  Other parts of Western Washington have also been getting intermittent smoke, which is Moderate to Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups.  Thurston, Mason, and Kitsap counties are likely experiencing a mix of light to moderate smoke from the Maple Fire and the Vancouver Island fires.  Snohomish, King, and Pierce counties may also be seeing some of that as well.  Whatcom, Skagit, and Island counties are likely seeing some of the fringes of the BC wildfire smoke plumes.  

This intermittent smoke we are experiencing should be expected through the weekend.  Southwestern counties will likely continue to see the best air quality in the region.

Central & Eastern Washington
There is a large plume of smoke (see below) from BC and Central Washington wildfires over a large portion of Central and Northeastern Washington that is mostly aloft, but the models are showing that air quality is expected to get worse Friday afternoon in Chelan, Okanogan, Ferry, Stevens, Pend Oreille, Spokane, Douglas, Grant, and Lincoln counties.  It's unclear how much of that smoke will mix down to the surface.  The forecast does have most of that clearing out by Saturday morning for Spokane, Lincoln, and Grant counties.  However, Chelan, Douglas and all the Northern counties are set to remain under an air quality alert through the weekend, with Unhealthy air expected.  Yakima county has a couple fires of its own (Miriam and Meninick Pass) which are causing Moderate to Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups air quality that is expected to continue through the weekend and may even have minor effects on downwind counties.  

There are still a considerable number of fires in the eastern slopes of the Cascades and the Colville National Forest which will send smoke to various parts of Central and Eastern Washington throughout the weekend.   The southeastern counties should continue to see the best air quality in the region.

GOES-East True Color Image - Friday (11:15 am)
  

8/24/2018 Smoke Forecast for the North Columbia Basin area


Thursday, August 23, 2018

HEPA air purifiers can remove most smoke from indoor air

Most studies about reducing indoor smoke have used HEPA air purifiers. Some HEPAs are more efficient than others at removing very small particles (PM2.5) including smoke.  Efficiency also depends on how large the volume of the indoor air is and on the rate of outdoor-to-indoor air infiltration (typical houses are quite permeable).  HEPAs have been observed to lower PM2.5 concentrations in homes by 26 to 88% relative to outdoor air.

This comment was coordinated with WDOH.    For more information see:

Barn et al. Portable air cleaners should be at the forefront of the public health response to landscape fire smoke.  Environmental Health (2016)    https://ehjournal.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12940-016-0198-9

EPA: Guide to Air Cleaners in the Home, 2nd Edition, Portable Air Cleaners, Furnace and HVAC Filters (July 2018)   https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2018-07/documents/guide_to_air_cleaners_in_the_home_2nd_edition.pdf

8/23/2018 Air Quality Outlook for the North Columbia Basin


Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Are there long-term physical effects of wildfire smoke?


There isn’t any  published research yet about long-term physical effects of wildfire smoke on people in affected area communities, and not much about them in wildfire-fighters, either.  However, wildfire-fighters are known to experience chronic lung and systemic inflammation from smoke that probably contributes to development of respiratory diseases in some cases.

Wildfire smoke particulate matter is made of some of the same chemicals that human-caused particulate matter is made of, but there are some chemical differences between them.  Because of the differences and lack of wildfire smoke research, we don't know if the smoke can exacerbate autoimmune diseases like human-caused particulate matter does. 

Weather event on the horizon will push smoke east

The National Weather Service is predicting a transition to cooler temperatures over the next couple of days as westerly winds materialize with the passage of a dry cold front.  As westerly winds pickup tonight, some of the smoke that is over the ocean will pass back over Washington State.  Behind the cold front is the possibility for rain on Sunday in the Cascades with parts of Eastern Washington seeing rain Sunday night into Monday morning.  Unfortunately, there is potential for new wildfire ignitions due to lightning that come along with that storm.

The coastal areas and Southwest Washington should wake up to clean air tomorrow morning, and the rest of Western Washington will follow shortly behind.  Keep in mind that there could still be smoke from Vancouver Island fires that affects Clallam county and smoke from the Maple Fire that affects parts of Kitsap and Mason counties.  Though, that should be minor compared to what has been seen the past few days. The National Weather Service is set to have the Air Quality Alert expire for all of Western Washington tomorrow at noon.

Central and Eastern Washington will likely see smoke make its way back over the state tomorrow, with air quality expected to get worse for awhile.  However, this should be short-lived as westerly flow will continue to bring in some fresh air over the state.  The National Weather Service is set to have the Air Quality Alert expire for most of Central and Eastern Washington at noon on Friday.  The exception is for Chelan, Okanogan, and Ferry counties which will continue to see smoke impacts from nearby fires.  While most of us will enjoy the smoke clearing out, the windy conditions could cause more fire growth to occur.

Check out the Environment Canada smoke forecast for the next 2 days.  Their "Firework" model does a good job of accounting for Canadian smoke.



8/22/2018 Air Quality Outlook for the North Columbia Basin

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Too many apples-to-oranges comparisons with Beijing

"Our air is worse than Beijing"
"This is the worst air quality in the world"

Some variant of these claims have been repeated in the past few days. Are they true? Lets make an apples-to-apples comparison and find out.

If we compare conditions across the world right now, then WA probably has the ignoble distinction of being one of the most polluted places. Here's the global AQ map as of 1PM PDT:

Colors are AQI colors (see legend in plot below). South and east Asia are seeing a lot of reds and maroons, which means a lot of people are exposed to Unhealthy or worse air at this point in time. Washington is in the same abyss, air quality wise. Not good.

Now lets see how air quality at a few WA sites compare with normal patterns seen in Beijing and New Delhi year round. Data from those cities are were obtained from air quality monitors at the respective US Embassies, which routinely record very high PM2.5 concentrations. I've defined "normal" as the range between monthly lower and upper quartiles, since the median passes right in the middle of it. This is also known as the interquartile range, or IQR.
The above figure shows how air quality in Seattle, Spokane and Omak have varied from 1 Jan- 20 August 2018, against the backdrop of monthly IQRs in Beijing and Delhi. As can be seen, the latter cities experience terribly compromised air quality primarily in the winter months. And its MUCH worse than what we experience, even during wildfire season. Even though Omak spiked right to the top of Delhi's IQR a few days ago, bear in mind that:

  1. Delhi's concentrations are higher than it's own IQRs 25% of the time. Or put another way, Delhi records concentrations higher than Omak's spike, for 3 months of the year.
  2. Omak's air is unlikely to remain "Hazardous" for several months. 

In spite of our wintertime temperature inversions and woodsmoke concerns, we're still in far better shape at that time of year.

So stacking the relatively "clean" season in Beijing/ Delhi against our "dirtiest" season is not a proper comparison.

Nevertheless, wildfire smoke- even of relatively short duration- still affects the health of a lot of people. This blog, even the article just below, contains a lot of resources on steps that can be taken to minimize its harmful effects.

Wildfire smoke can cause or worsen health problems.

 

 
Know the Symptoms

What health problems can smoke cause?
  • Eye, nose, and throat irritation (burning eyes and runny nose)
  • Wheezing, coughing, shortness of breath, and headache
  • Aggravation of existing lung, heart and circulatory conditions, including asthma and angina


Who is especially sensitive to smoke? Inhaling smoke is not good for anyone, even healthy people. People most likely to have health problems from breathing smoke include:
  • People with lung diseases such as asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), including bronchitis and emphysema.
  • People with respiratory infections, such as pneumonia, acute bronchitis, bronchiolitis, colds, or flu.
  • People with existing heart or circulatory problems, such as dysrhythmias, congestive heart failure, coronary artery disease, and angina.
  • People with a prior history of heart attack or stroke.
  • Infants and children under 18 because their lungs and airways are still developing and they breathe more air per pound of body weight than adults.
  • Older adults (over age 65) because they are more likely to have unrecognized heart or lung diseases.
  • Pregnant women because both the mother and fetus are at increased risk of health effects.
  • People who smoke because they are more likely to already have lower lung function and lung diseases.
  • People with diabetes because they are more likely to have an undiagnosed cardiovascular disease.


What can I do to protect myself and my family from outdoor smoke?
  • Avoid physical exertion outdoors if smoke is in the air.
  • 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.
  • Stay indoors and keep indoor air as clean as possible. Take the following steps when indoors:   
    • 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).


Ash Falls in Seattle ... Some Clearing in Southeast Washington

There were several reports of ash in the greater Seattle area yesterday, probably from the Cougar Creek and/or Crescent Mountain fire.  This can be disconcerting, but keep in mind that the amount of ash we are seeing in the Seattle area isn't a major health concern.  The very fine particles that you can't see (PM2.5) are what can cause respiratory and other health problems in these conditions because they get deep into the lungs.  Western Washington will continue to experience Unhealthy to Very Unhealthy air quality today.  Strong westerly winds are predicted for Wednesday afternoon into Thursday.  Those winds should push most of this lingering smoke out of Western Washington on Thursday.  The coastal region could see some relief on Wednesday evening.  Keep in mind, though, that there is a large area of smoke off the coast that will likely blow back over us on Wednesday.

Southeast Washington saw some relief last night because the northeasterly winds carried the smoke towards the rest of the state, with air quality still in the Moderate to Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups range there.  Smoke forecast models predict that the area of relief in Southeast Washington will continue to see some modest clearing.  We could see air quality get a bit better today from Yakima to Spokane, but it will be short-lived as smoke is predicted to push back into the region tomorrow.  In general, areas in Northeastern Washington should expect to see more smoke throughout the week, despite any clearing that will occur today.

Residents in Chelan, Douglas, and Okanogan counties are so close to multiple fires.  So, even with expected clearing for much of the state later this week, those counties should expect continued smoky conditions.

PM2.5  (Smoke) - Tuesday at 9 a.m.

MODIS - Terra Satellite Image for Tuesday (~11am)

8/21/2018 Air Quality Outlook for the North Columbia Basin


Monday, August 20, 2018

North Columbia Basin Smoke Outlook for 8/20/18


Tell us plainly: when will the smoke clear?

Harsh reality first: other than some temporary relief in some places experiencing strong winds today (see maps below), no significant smoke clearing expected before Wednesday for most of the state.
After that, Western WA starts to clear on Thursday, eastern WA on Friday.

Widespread Unhealthy conditions are expected statewide, with all of eastern WA only reporting Very Unhealthy and Hazardous air. Western Washington is littered with Good to Very Unhealthy conditions. Some strong winds are expected today (see areas in National Weather Service maps below) and while this will alleviate the smoke for a while, they also increase fire danger substantially.


Medium range weather models suggest southwest winds will bring some clean air to western WA by Thursday and in eastern WA by Friday, perhaps keeping it all clean through the weekend, except close to major fires.

Please note that the map of air quality monitors above has been slow to refresh, given the high demand for data. The Dept of Ecology's air quality monitoring data map is a good alternative.

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Very Large Smoke Plumes Across Pacific Northwest

Very large smoke plumes can be seen all across the Pacific Northwest.  NOAA describes it as such:

"The ongoing wildfire activity affecting portions of the western United States and western Canada continues to produce enormous amounts of smoke that covers most of Canada and the northern portion of the United States. The areas of densest smoke extend from western and southern British Columbia across Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, and southern Quebec in Canada and northern California, southern Oregon, all of the northern border states from Washington to Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, and Missouri in the United States."

MODIS Aqua Satellite Image - Saturday Afternoon

PM2.5 monitoring has shown Good to Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups air quality across Western, South-Central, and South-East Washington counties today.  Continued Unhealthy to Hazardous conditions have been monitored in the Central and North-Eastern counties.  Conditions look to get progressively worse for western Washington as well as most other counties over the next few days.


Please protect you and your family from smoke if it is impacting your area.  The Department of Health has relevant information here.

While waiting for BC smoke scene #2, lets compare this year's smoke with past years

Yes, you read that right. Lotsa BC smoke poised to overrun the state again. But first things first.

Here is a comparison of how the 2018 wildfire smoke impacts compare with past years.
The gray shading reflects the typical range of air quality conditions over the last 11 wildfire seasons. In more precise techno-talk, it is the median through the 95th percentile. You can see roughly when each area experienced its smoke episodes in the past. The black lines show how 2018 has progressed thus far. The background shading shows the intensity of smoke.

So all of western Washington for example, experienced smoke impacts for longer in past summers (mostly 2017), than 2018. But that pales in comparison with what Okanogan and Chelan counties have routinely endured in the past: in fact, this year has been a little mellower for them, although still pretty brutal. Similar conclusions can be drawn about other areas.

What's the take home message? That someone else had/ has it worse, so quit complaining and tough it out? Far from it! Wildfire smoke impacts, even at low levels are detrimental to human health and our readers are strongly encouraged to familiarize themselves with the health-protection resources on this blog.

What about that BC smoke?
This is where things get ugly and stay ugly through mid- week or so. This afternoon's satellite picture shows a lot of smoke overhead, gradually moving south-southwest (red dots are fires).
LOTS of smoke to the north and the forecast shows it engulfing the state by tomorrow. Here's one model's prediction surface level smoke on Sunday night:
Chances are slim that there will be a natural clean air shelter anywhere in the state through Wednesday. All the more reason to be diligent about minimizing time outdoors, donning N95 face masks, running A/C's in recirculation mode (temperatures are likely to soar early this week but smoke aloft will shave off a few degrees), or investing in an air purifier which does not produce indoor ozone.

Pronóstico de Humo para el Cuenca de Columbia Norte 18/8


North Columbia Basin Smoke Outlook for 8/18/18


Friday, August 17, 2018

8/17/2018 Wildfire in Washington Update

Lightning over the last 24 hours has ignited a few new fires in the state although the story for Washington fires remains the large Cougar Creek, Crescent Mtn., and McLeod fires in the Okanogan/Wenatchee National Forest. Crescent Mtn in particular became active yesterday and spotted into a new area. Summaries of fires shown below. Much more info for most is available here: https://inciweb.nwcg.gov/?state=49 .
Smoke from these fires continues to degrade air quality from Winthrop and Twisp, south to Entiat and Wenatchee, and east to Republic, Colville, and Inchelium. For the time being, meteorological conditions have kept smoke from fires in Canada north of the border but the fires in Canada are still large, numerous, and active and it would seem that smoke is likely to head toward Washington again in a few days. So if you're in an area that is experiencing good air quality this is your chance to get out and go for that run or take the kids out to play because conditions look like they will change back to smoky again by late in the day on Sunday.


Westside/Olympic Penninsula
Maple. 10 mi N of Hoodsport, WA. Start 8/4. Monitor/Confine/Full Suppression. Cause: Unknown. 1,464 acres (+100). 52% containment. Moderate fire behavior. Timber. T&E habitat threatened. Road, trail and area closures.


Yakima Area
Miriam. 25 mi SE of Mt Rainier. Start 7/30. Full Suppression. Cause: Unknown. 2,650 acres (+250). 10% containment. Active fire behavior. Timber. Steep terrain. Evacuations in effect. White Pass Ski Resort and T&E species habitat threatened. Road, trail and area closures.


New: Winnier Road. 13 mi SE of Toppenish, WA. Start 08/16. Full Suppression. Cause: Lightning. 349 acres. Lined. Limited information available.

Methow Valley/Chelan/Entiat Area
McLeod. 8 mi N of Mazama, WA. Start 8/11. Monitor/Full Suppression. Cause: Lightning. 3,948 acres (+1,148). 0% containment. Active fire behavior. Timber. Structures threatened.
Crescent Mtn. 16 mi W of Winthrop WA. Start 7/29. Monitor/Confine/Full Suppression. Cause: Unknown. 19,700 acres (+2,824). 37% containment. Moderate fire behavior. Timber. Structures, recreation and timber threatened. Evacuation notices. Road, trail and area closures. 


Cougar Creek. 25 mi W of Chelan, WA. Start 7/28. Full Suppression. Cause: Lightning. 34,482 acres (+2,874). 35% containment. Active fire behavior. Timber and slash. Evacuation notices. Area restrictions, road, trail and area closures. Structures, cultural resources, timber, infrastructure and recreation threatened.

Colville Area
Boyds. 3 mi W of Kettle Falls, WA. Start 08/11. Full Suppression. Cause: Unknown. 3,065 acres (+65). 27% containment. Active fire behavior. Timber and grass. Evacuations in effect. Major highway closures and structures threatened.
Horns Mountain. 9 mi NE of Orient, WA. Start 08/11. Full Suppression. Cause: Lightning. 1,293 acres (+105). 15% containment. Moderate fire behavior. Timber. Timber threatened.