Friday, June 28, 2019

Information - June 28: Be Smoke Ready!

Despite the thunder and lightning earlier this week, we thankfully haven’t seen much smoke in Washington skies yet this year. All it takes is one spark, though, so ask yourself: Are you #SmokeReady? Here are 10 tips to help you prepare:

Plan ahead with your doctor: If you or a family member has asthma, or suffers from heart or lung disease, have a plan to manage your condition. Children, pregnant women, and people over age 65 are especially at risk during smoke events. Learn more.

Get HEPA filters, recirculate your AC, and share space: Use a HEPA filter in your home’s central air system or your air conditioner unit or air purifier. Learn how to turn your AC to “recirculate” in both your home and your car. Also, check with your neighbors. If you or your neighbor doesn’t have good air filtration or air conditioning at home, arrange to share spaces with those who do.

Employers, plan ahead with your employees: Have a plan in place for employees who work outdoors. Consider alternate work assignments or relocation to reduce employee exposure to smoke. For staff that work indoors, ensure your air filtration system is protective for smoke. Prepare for employees to face childcare closures, home emergencies, etc. Check with Washington Labor & Industries for guidance.

Have a Plan B for outdoor events: Have a contingency plan prepared in case you need to cancel, reschedule, or move an outdoor event indoors. (Make sure the indoor venue has good air filtration!) If you have children in summer camps or childcare, ask the organizers about their smoke plan. Check with your county health department about cancellation guidelines.

Buy a respirator mask: If you’ll be outdoors long enough to need a mask, check into an N95 or N100 respirator now. Plan ahead to ensure it's properly fitted. Masks do not work for everyone, though, so test the fit and comfort before you need it. Updated for 2020-2021: Washington Dept. of Health's guidance on protecting yourself from wildfire smoke during the the COVID-19 pandemic includes mask info.

Stock up: Have several days of water, groceries, and family needs on hand so you don’t have to go out when it’s smoky.

Don’t forget your pets: If the air quality is forecasted to be poor while you’re away from home, plan ahead to keep your pets inside or with a caregiver. Learn more.

Learn the air quality index numbers and colors: During periods of poor air quality, watch for air quality alerts, pay attention to numbers and colors of air quality monitors, and know when to limit your time outdoors.

Get alerts: Sign up to receive air quality email alerts for your zip code. Also, bookmark or subscribe to this blog for statewide air quality and wildfire updates.

Become an expert!: Learn more about being Smoke Ready at EPA’s Smoke-Ready Toolbox for Wildfires and Washington Department of Health’s Smoke From Wildfires Toolkit.

Friday, June 21, 2019

Statewide forecast — June 21: Mostly smoke free weekend ahead, but...

Good news on the first day of summer: no major smoke events to report. A new fire did start at the Yakima Training Center yesterday but does not appear to be creating a whole lot of smoke now. Statewide air quality remains Good.

Good news for the first 3 days of summer: no major smoke intrusions expected statewide. We have been watching some ominous model simulations which bring a whiff of smoke from as far away as Manitoba to our state's borders (yeah that's what certain weather patterns are capable of!) but not expecting any substantial smoke impacts.

Notes of caution for the first weekend of summer: despite the lack of hot temperatures, strong-ish winds in eastern WA will help rapidly spread any new fires. We don't need any of that so please do your part to keep us all safe.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Wildfire information — June 13: No smoke at the moment but be careful out there.

Did you know that a majority of wildfires in Washington are human-caused? This is a very good time to be especially careful with fire in areas shown on the map below. The National Weather Service has issued a Red Flag Warning for parts of central Washington indicating critical fire weather conditions are forecast. The NWS issues a Red Flag Warning, in conjunction with land management agencies, to alert people to an ongoing or expected critical fire weather pattern. The combination of expected high temperatures, dry conditions, and gusty winds today (Thursday) have led to the need for this warning.

More details on the situation are available from the NWS-Spokane office at this link:

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Statewide forecast — June 11: Clear Skies and Sun Sun Sun!

The massive fires in Alberta are still spewing smoke, but none of that will make its way to our skies this week.  Forecasts call for clear skies and Good air quality.  Wildfire smoke should not be a problem in Washington this week.

Temperatures will peak in the 90s on Wednesday for counties in the Columbia Basin, with very little wind. It will still be hot in the Columbia Basin on Thursday as winds pick up, but high temperatures will drop down to the mid-80s on Friday.

Other parts of the state will also get quite hot, hitting mid-80s or higher on Wednesday.  Luckily, westerly winds are expected to pick up on Thursday afternoon and this will be accompanied by clouds and a cooling trend.

While we don't expect wildfire smoke this week, let's do our part to keep it that way!  It's very important for people to practice fire safety on hot/dry days.  Dry grasses are especially susceptible to human-caused ignition.

Friday, June 7, 2019

Statewide forecast — June 7: Cool, Wet, and Clean Air this Weekend... Warming Up Next Week

This weekend should be clear of any wildfire smoke, with Good air quality expected.  Conditions will be cool, cloudy, and wet in most parts of the state.  Lightning is a concern for fire starts, but the cool temperatures and expected precipitation should abate the potential for new wildfires.  Furthermore, the Fire Danger Index is currently low to moderate for most of the state.

However, a warming and drying trend is expected to start on Sunday, and by the middle of next week we will see temperatures reach the 90s! This will increase the chance of wildfires and smoke in the Pacific Northwest.

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Statewide forecast — June 5: Highway 243 fire will "hose down" the Columbia Basin & Spokane with smoke. Rest of the state largely smoke free

The highway 243 fire in Grant County has grown to over 15,000 acres now and is 25% contained. Spokane recorded brief incursions of Unhealthy air yesterday, as high winds sent wavy plumes of smoke to several counties.

Since little smoke concerns exist elsewhere in the state through Friday, the rest of this post will only cover smoke from the Hwy 243 fire.

Strong winds with directional shifts will cause plumes to impact a wide swathe of downwind areas at different times. Not expecting much precipitation to help with firefighting or smoke dissipation. Smoke model animations look like someone is waving a water jet around the Columbia Basin! Here's how some models depict plumes between now and 11AM on Thursday. For those interested, different colors of these ensemble mean forward trajectories correspond to starting heights between 100m and 2000m AGL.

Given the fire growth, it ls likely that several areas will see air quality varying between Moderate and Unhealthy at different times. Worse close to the fires. Generally worse air during the day and slightly lower concentrations at night. Expect this behavior through Thursday.

This blog contains several resources to protect your health during wildfire smoke events. See Stay safe!

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Statewide forecast — June 4: Spoke too soon. A new fire in Grant County is blowing smoke into the Columbia Basin

A fast moving fire, now estimated at 3000 acres close to Highway 243 in Grant County is clearly visible on satellite images and its smoke was observed at monitors in Mesa, Rosalia and Ritzville. No intel on the cause yet.

Strong-ish west winds are blowing the smoke into the basin and are expected to continue fanning the flames today. A breezy cold front passage tomorrow will only worsen fire spread. But the same winds also disperse smoke downwind of the fire (except right by the fire, where plumes can be concentrated).

Expecting air quality to vary between Moderate and Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups in Franklin, Adams and parts of Whitman Counties between now and Thursday. Worse closer to the fire.

In other areas, the only smoke will be from fires we create. We dont need any of that so lets do our part to prevent fires.

Monday, June 3, 2019

Statewide forecast — June 3: Little to no smoke expected statewide this week

Quick update to let our readers know that the wildfire smoke risk is low this work week. Good on-shore winds & light precipitation will result in mostly Good air statewide. Enjoy the great outdoors!