Thursday, November 3, 2022

So long 2022 wildfire smoke season: See you in 2023!

We are happy, as many of you are as well, to see the smoke finally dissipate from Washington and close out this year's crazy season. Who knew our first wildfire of the season would start in mid-July and continue to burn into November? Just goes to show how unpredictable wildfire smoke season can be. 

This will conclude our reporting for 2022 on the WASmoke blog. We'll return in 2023 when wildfire season kicks off again.

7/18/22 The Stayman Flats Wildfire
Photo courtesy of WA DNR

Recommendations during the off-season:

The map at the top of this page remains active throughout the year. During the off-season, you can still find information here on:
Colder weather is upon us, which means an uptick in wintertime wood smoke. 

Air quality burn bans typically occur in the winter when wood smoke pollutes the air. They are called by Ecology, local clean air agencies, and Tribes to protect people's health. A burn ban limits wood stove use and outdoor burning.

See if there is Air Quality burn ban in effect before firing up your wood stove or fireplace.
Air quality burn bans do not apply if it is your ONLY source of heat. 

If you do burn wood to heat your home, those clean air fans are still useful to help keep your indoor air clean!

For emergencies, please call 911. 
Be well and see you next summer!

Tuesday, October 25, 2022

2022 Wildfire smoke season in review

It’s the end of October, and while there are still a few active fires, it looks like the rain is here to stay. We wanted to review the most recent smoke event and put this wildfire season into context in comparison with previous years.  

Ecology's Air Monitoring Coordinator, Jill Schulte, put together these useful maps to look at the frequency and duration of smoke events. She used the daily Hazard Mapping System (HMS) smoke polygons developed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA’s) Office of Satellite and Product Operations. 

These polygons use daily GOES satellite imagery to categorize the density of smoke as light, medium, or heavy. Polygons categorized as heavy are more likely to indicate the presence of ground-level smoke. To make these maps, the daily heavy HMS smoke polygons during wildfire season were overlaid with 4km grid cells, and the number of days each grid cell intersected (at any part of the grid cell) a heavy smoke polygon were counted. 

The first map below shows the average number of heavy wildfire smoke days from 2015-2021—you can really see how different parts of the state have been impacted by wildfire smoke over the years, with some locations experiencing on average over 20 days of wildfire smoke per year.

The second map below describes the number of heavy wildfire days just in 2022—you can easily identify the locations of the active fires that led to prolonged smoke impacts in western and central WA.

So how did 2022 measure up? 

Another way to put this wildfire season into context is to look at how many Washingtonians were exposed to extended periods of unhealthy air in comparison to other recent smoke events. 

The number of people exposed to unhealthy or worse air quality (daily PM2.5 average of > 55 micrograms per cubic meter) in 2022 is comparable to the smoke-filled days of 2017, 2018, and 2020.

One difference between 2022 and previous years is the duration of the smoke event. While the smoke lingered for much longer than we hoped this year, the majority of Washingtonians were exposed to unhealthy or worse air for less than 5 days. A smaller fraction of the state (those located closest to active fires including the areas of Darrington, Leavenworth, and Wenatchee) were exposed to unhealthy or worse air for 10-14 days.

And finally we can take a look at an updated PM2.5 cumulative exposure plot. Last we checked in early October, average statewide concentrations in 2022 were middling compared to those of the last 10 years. A week of heavy smoke makes an impact—an updated analysis below shows that average statewide PM2.5 concentrations are greater than most years in the past decade. Average cumulative 2022 PM2.5 concentrations as of 10/25/2022 are only less than 2017, 2018, and 2020—years with larger fires or smoke that blanketed the entire state for weeks.

Thursday, October 20, 2022

Yes, rain (and snow) is on its way

There seems to be some disbelief that the wildfire season could be coming to an end this year. PM2.5 monitors are still showing unhealthy conditions in many areas of the state.  Fortunately, the weather models continue to show fall weather on its way with significant precipitation lasting several days.  If you look at the precipitation accumulation expected over the next 24 hours, there's really nothing to speak of.  But check out the expected totals over the next 60 hours:

Precipitation accumulation for Thursday thru Saturday afternoon. NAM model, courtesy of

It's going to be tough for any wildfires to stay active much longer with all the cool/moist air on its way.  Some of that precipitation will be snow in the mountains!  Here is the latest update from the NWS:

"Big weather changes are expected Friday for the Inland Northwest, with a strong cold front bringing colder temperatures, snow, and breezy winds. Mountainous regions will see the first snowflakes of the season. Snow levels will fall between 4000 and 5000 feet Saturday and 2500-3500 feet Sunday. Additionally, the significant cooldown will result in freezing temperatures. Now is the time to prepare for more typical late-October conditions."

On Sunday, you will likely notice a lack of precipitation, and maybe think there wasn't enough to douse the fires.  However, there is precipitation forecasted in the Cascade mountains (and Western WA) nearly every day of next week!  

All Air Quality Alerts currently in place are set to expire today or tomorrow, note there are new updates below:

Western Washington:

Clallam, Mason, Thurston, Clark, Cowlitz, Lewis, Skamania, Wahkiakum, Island, Jefferson, King, Kitsap, Pierce, Skagit, Snohomish, and Whatcom counties (update, AQA now ends 10 am on Friday)

San Juan county (AQA still ends midnight tonight)

Central Washington:

Chelan, Douglas, Kittitas (new, due to local Rx burning), and Okanogan counties (AQA ends midnight on Friday)

Eastern Washington 

Spokane, Stevens, and Pend Oreille counties (AQA ends midnight tonight)

Tuesday, October 18, 2022

Statewide smoke update: lingering smoke impacts but the rain is arriving soon

Good news: The rainy season is almost upon us. Forecasts are looking very promising for a fall storm arriving later this week. 

Bad news: We still have to get through a few more days of smoke impacts before the rain arrives. 

This morning's satellite image:

In Western Washington, light winds will lead to continuing smoke impacts from the lingering fires in the north Cascades, with the potential for unhealthy for sensitive groups to unhealthy in the Puget Sound region. Poor air quality near active fires (including the Loch Katrine, Suiattle, and Bolt Creek fires) will continue this week as well.

In Southwest Washington, the Nakia Creek Fire is currently contributing to deteriorating air quality.

 Rainy and windy conditions begin on Friday.

East of the Cascades, smoke impacts will continue in already impacted areas, including the Wenatchee and Methow Valleys, ranging from moderate to unhealthy, with the heaviest impacts near active fires. Light winds are likely to persist through Thursday until the fall precipitation event begins and continues through the weekend. 


Most of the Air Quality Alerts that were in place over the weekend have been extended through Thursday. 

Friday, October 14, 2022

Friday AM Update for the Central Puget Sound: leftovers, and a smoky weekend...

Unfortunately, smoke still lingers in the Puget Sound region. We didn't get much clearing last night and started today off with mostly UNHEALTHY FOR SENSITIVE GROUPS and some UNHEALTHY and MODERATE air quality readings. The Bolt Creek, White River, and Suiattle River fires are the main contributing factors, as well as some from the North Cascades fires.

See the satellite image below from 10 AM:

Keep in mind that some of the thickness (opacity) of the plumes you see is water on the smoke particles. These particles will dry out and thin a bit with the sun and warmer temps. We didn't get much clearing overnight, or at least as much as we've had some of our past few nights, so the Lynnwood-Tacoma corridor is starting off  in the mostly UNHEALTHY FOR SENSITIVE GROUPS range. I do expect some winds this afternoon to help disperse and thin out the smoke a bit and push it south and east, but overall, I don't think we'll get a good clearing. 

The longer-term concern is that tonight through Sunday, easterly winds should pick up in the Cascades, and the central Puget Sound is expected to get a fairly direct feed from the Bolt Creek and White River fires. There is major concern for smoke impacts, and also for flaring up of the fires (which isn't in my prediction skill set). The Suiattle River fire will also be impacting SR 530 and Darrington fairly directly with UNHEALTHY air quality expected through Sunday. The US 2 corridor is also likely to have UNHEALTHY air quality, while the rest of Puget Sound will probably be in UNHEALTHY FOR SENSITIVE GROUPS or UNHEALTHY levels. The smoke could easily push further west into Mason and Jefferson Counties, and further south into Thurston and Lewis Counties. 

Later Saturday and into Sunday (15th and 16th), the winds are likely to shift a bit more to the northwest, so the smoke should head out to the Strait. The south Sound may get a break from the direct supply of smoke earlier than the north, but it's unclear how much improvement they'll see. In any case, no major clearing event is expected and Monday could return to our day-night 'sloshing' with smoke overnight and modest clearing during the daytime hours. 

The major pattern change we're hoping for is expected by next Saturday or Sunday (22nd or 23rd).


If you plan on traveling to the Okanogan-Wenatchee forest for hunting season, be aware that Stage 1 burn restrictions are in effect. Campfires are ONLY permitted in designated campgrounds and wilderness areas due to increased risk of fires. 

ALWAYS check for burn bans before lighting a campfire. Many other burn bans are in place around the state. You can find additional information on burn bans on Ecology's Burn Ban webpage. 

Also, there are numerous Air Quality Alerts in effect throughout the weekend and into Monday in much of the state. 

Use the blue horizontal scroll bar on the map above this post for the 5-day smoke forecast and to check air quality monitors.

Visit the Health Information tab on this page for tips on how to protect yourself. Meanwhile, help keep the air you breathe clean by keeping doors and windows closed, setting your vehicle's AC to 'recirculate' and making a clean air fan:  

Wednesday, October 12, 2022

Statewide data roundup: smoke in October and regional comparisons

Usually by this time in October we’re thinking about rain, Halloween, and all things fall. We’re certainly not discussing wildfire smoke (or the Mariners!). Wildfire smoke impacts in Washington State usually occur in August and September. Average statewide fine particle (PM2.5) concentrations since 2000 agree with this assessment—and this year we are observing higher than usual PM2.5 concentrations in October. The figure below shows daily average PM2.5 data for all statewide monitoring sites since 2000, with the years 2000-2021 in grey and 2022 highlighted by the red trace.

Phil’s annual accumulation plots posted the other day are a great illustration of the cumulative exposure to PM2.5 throughout the year. Looking at average statewide PM2.5 concentrations, while 2022 is gradually increasing in exposure thanks to the past few weeks, the cumulative average PM2.5 concentration is less than recent years with larger fires or smoke that blanketed the entire state for weeks (i.e., 2017, 2018, and 2020).

And what about different regions in 2022? Smoke impacts started later in the year for most of the state with minimal impacts before September, and Central Washington has seen the worst of the smoke thanks to its proximity to the most active fires.

Looking at a few Central Washington air quality monitoring sites that have been most impacted this season, these graphics are a great tool to visualize how wildfire smoke over the course of a few weeks impacts the total PM2.5 exposure. The horizontal red line on each panel is the annual National Ambient Air Quality Standard for PM2.5 (we want to be well below this line!), and each point is the daily average colored by its respective AQI category.

Unfortunately, impacts from active fires in the Cascades continue in the Methow, Wenatchee, and western mountain valleys. The Puget Sound may also be impacted by wildfire smoke starting tomorrow. Check back here for more information and be sure to take a look at DOH's answers to questions about health impacts of wildfire smoke.

Tuesday, October 11, 2022

We’re talking wildfire smoke & health…in October

We’re getting questions from you all about health, so here we go.

What are the symptoms?

Exposure to wildfire smoke can cause health problems that range from minor to severe. Some symptoms include:

  • Eye, nose, and throat irritation (burning eyes and runny nose)
  • Fatigue
  • Headache and coughing
  • Wheezing and shortness of breath
  • Worsening of existing conditions, especially heart and lung diseases
  • Asthma attacks, chest pain, or irregular heartbeat

For people with health conditions symptoms can be serious, with increased risk of hospitalization or death. But smoke is not good for anyone to breathe. Health impacts can continue through the week following a wildfire smoke event . Continue to monitor symptoms and don’t delay care if needed.

What about the long-term impacts of smoke?

While there is a lot of evidence about the short-term impacts of wildfire smoke up to a week after exposure, the longer-term health impacts from wildfire smoke are not well known, though this research is emerging after increasingly smoky summers.

However, the research is clear that breathing in PM2.5 (the main component of smoke) even at low levels is not good for health.

Who’s most affected?

There are groups of people more sensitive to smoke, but that list includes more than just health conditions, and likely includes you or someone close to you. 

  • People with heart and lung disease, people over 65 and under 18, pregnant people, outdoor workers, people of color, tribal and indigenous people, and people with low income.

What about masks?

It’s tough to stay inside all the time with extended periods of smoke. A properly fitted, NIOSH-approved respirator can reduce your exposure to smoke if you have to be outside. KN95 masks or other masks that are approved in other countries may not provide the same protection as NIOSH-approved respirators because they are not regulated in the United States. If using a KN95 mask, look for ones that meet requirements similar to NIOSH-approved respirators. Cloth face coverings, surgical masks, and masks with filter inserts generally do not provide much protection from breathing in smoke.

For more information see the Health Tab or go to

Monday, October 10, 2022

We love summer and all, but how about some fresh air?

Monday Morning has started off with much of the Central Puget Sound getting wildfire smoke and having air that is UNHEALTHY FOR SENSITIVE GROUPS with some areas in the foothills well into the UNHEALTHY and some spikes of  VERY UNHEALTHY. See our Sensor Map image below.

The weather pattern that gives us our awesome summer days has decided to stick around... far ... too ... long (for when we have wildfires nearby). Now, don't get me wrong, I love summer and all, but this pattern usually breaks down in September and we start getting occasional rain, or the switch flips to perm-a-rain. But this year we may be headed for a record, as others have discussed. But, we should be getting a bit of a break for the next day or two as a solid wind should start this afternoon into the evening, and push everything back to the east. The Puget Sound and western WA should have a significant improvement later today. But the switch still hasn't flipped, and we may not get that for another week... 

What does this extended summer mean for our air quality and how does this compare to other years, especially the big event of 2020? One way to get a sense for this is the annual accumulation of exposure. The EPA's designated National Ambient Air Quality Standard (NAAQS) uses the annual average as a key measure of health risk from fine particles (PM2.5). So, we can look at how our exposure adds up for a whole year and approaches the NAAQS. See the figure below.

Here, we see how over the course of a year, each day adds to our cumulative exposure (or average). Each day is colored by the AQI category that we would use on a forecast for that day. [Green is GOOD, Yellow is MODERATE, orange in UNHEALTHY FOR SENSITIVE GROUPS, red is UNHEALTHY, purple is VERY UNHEALTHY] We need to keep that annual number under 12, and ideally it would be even lower. To give a general sense, I'm showing data from Marysville and North Bend. The Marysville 2020 data shows the full year, and the major wildfire smoke event is obvious with the big jump with reds and a purple. Most of the Puget Sound looked very similar to this curve.  The annual average was over 10, but didn't hit 12. 

By comparison,  the smoke from the Bolt Creek Fire this year is more localized with the US2 corridor and the Cascades getting a much bigger hit. Marysville hasn't had as big of jump as 2020, but has been moving up faster in the last two weeks. North Bend shows one of the biggest recent increase of all of our network, but it is still below the 2020 spike. Assuming our typical PNW fall weather eventually returns, our curves will flatten out and we should still be under 10 ug/m3 for most areas. That said, some days and some places can be still be UNHEALTHY or worse for the next week or so, so people still need to be ready to take some precautions until the fires are really out for the winter. 

Friday, October 7, 2022

Stagnant Air Through Weekend, Brief Period of Relief for Monday Evening/Tuesday Morning

 The warm and dry start to October continues

Another sunny and warm weekend is in store for Washington as a stubborn high pressure system remains firmly in place over the region. By Monday afternoon, a dry cold front will drop out of Canada and sweep across Washington, bringing gusty winds to most areas of the state by Monday around sunset. These winds will be strongest in the Juan de Fuca Strait and in the Cascade Valleys. This will provide good ventilation conditions and should clear smoke out for Monday night and Tuesday morning. 
ECMFW forecast sustained winds for Monday evening. These winds will temporarily clear smoke from the Puget Sound and Cascade valleys. 

After the brief respite early in the week, a similar pattern to this week develops by Tuesday afternoon and continues through the foreseeable future. Smoke conditions will return and air quality conditions in the 'unhealthy' category are likely for the Wenatchee Valley. Even with no rain, smoke production on active fires will begin to slowly decrease as longer nights and cooler days set in. We are in the midst of the driest and warmest October since at least 1987, so this pattern is decidedly not normal. 

Active management continues on all ongoing fires in Washington, and firefighters have made great progress in containing the amount of timber the fires have available to burn. Unfortunately, it takes widespread wetting rain to truly extinguish these fires. Just 1 inch of rain falling on the area of the Bolt Creek fire is equivalent to dumping 353 million gallons of water, the scale that mother nature works on is truly astounding. 

Tuesday, October 4, 2022

High Pressure Trapping Smoke, Impacts Through Weekend

 A warm, stable airmass is stuck in place over Washington

Mid-level ridging is firmly entrenched over Washington for the next 5-7 days, providing warm temperatures, clear skies, and light winds for nearly the entire state. When we get patterns that have very little wind associated with them, daily wind patterns are dictated by terrain. In the afternoons, air heated along the mountain slopes tends to rise, yielding upslope winds. At night, the air more rapidly cools in the mountains and drains out through the valleys, yielding downslope winds. These downslope winds at night are the primarily driver for bringing low level smoke into the Puget Sound region, as well as into the Wenatchee Valley. 

       The "Omega Block" pattern is responsible for our warm and dry pattern with little wind this week

With very little wind outside of the daily upslope/downslope pattern, smoke can very easily get trapped in valleys and drainages. The worst smoke impacts through this weekend will be along Highway 2, spreading eastward from Skykomish, through Lake Wenatchee, and down slope all the way to the city of Wenatchee. Very concentrated smoke will also spread westward from Skykomish, down through Gold Bar and Monroe, with less intense but still impactful smoke for north King County and Snohomish County in the Puget Lowlands. Packwood will continue to see unhealthy levels of smoke from the Goat Rocks fire, and moderate to occasionally unhealthy smoke levels are possible in the Methow Valley from the fires in the North Cascades. 

Morning satellite imagery shows fog in the Puget Lowlands, with dense smoke along Hwy's 2 & 12. More diffuse smoke is visible over the North Cascades 

If you are wondering if this weather pattern is normal, it is decidedly NOT normal. Record high temperatures have been recorded at many locations across the state this week, with Seattle setting a record for most consecutive days above 75F for the month of October!

Thursday, September 29, 2022

Cascade wildfires still showing moderate fire behavior

Cloud cover has been widespread across the region recently, bringing some welcome moisture and cooler weather to parts of the state.  Unfortunately, those clouds also masked active fire locations and our ability to see smoke in satellite imagery.  Despite the recent rain in parts of the state, it wasn't strong enough to put out our wildfires. The NWCC Morning Brief today notes several fires in the Cascades that still are exhibiting moderate fire behavior: Goat Rocks, Bolt Creek, White River & Irving Peak, Minnow Ridge, and Kalama fires.  There is also minimal fire activity in the NW Pasayten Complex and Chilliwack Complex.

Residents in Wenatchee, Leavenworth, Methow Valley, and surrounding areas have been living with Moderate to Unhealthy smoke intermittently for many days, and will continue to get impacted by wildfire smoke today.  Visible smoke is still evident this morning on the Wenatchee and Winthrop webcams. Winds through the Cascade gaps today will be breezy but cooler temperatures should limit fire growth.  There should be fewer smoke intrusions over the weekend but areas close to fires will continue to be impacted.

Tomorrow the winds will start to transition and come from the east, with smoke impacts in the mountain valley areas West of the Cascades expected for several days.  The Puget Sound lowlands should also expect intermittent smoke from the Cascades through the weekend and into next week.  If recent trends are any indication, residents along the Skykomish river drainage (King/Snohomish county border) should especially expect Moderate to Unhealthy impacts for several days.

Temperatures will warm this weekend into next week and offshore flow is likely, but appears to stay light through the weekend.   Most models show continued warm and dry conditions through much of next week, so we should expect moderate fire activity to continue. The good news is that there isn't enough fire activity to cause a large widespread regional smoke event.  However, fresh smoke will continue to meander around the Cascades for the foreseeable future, as no rainfall (other than today's leftovers) are expected over the next week.

Current Weather Story:

Saturday through Wednesday Weather Story:

Monday, September 26, 2022

Warm and Dry through Tuesday, Improving Weather for Wednesday

 Dry and unstable conditions over the Cascades are leading to increased smoke 

The ridge of high pressure responsible for our warm and dry weekend is peaking in strength today, bring warm and dry conditions to much of the state. Over the active fires in the Cascades, unstable conditions have developed which leads to much more active burn periods in the afternoon hours. Coupled with light winds and cool nights, smoke can easily get trapped in valleys and drainages on both sides of the Cascades. 

The image below depicts where smoke settled last night on fires in the central and north Cascades:

The ongoing fires in the Cascades are responding to the warm, dry, and unstable conditions today by burning quite actively this afternoon, producing more smoke than they have in at least two weeks. The National Weather Service has issued Red Flag Warnings for the Cascades above 2,000', where fuels are dry and conditions are right for fires to experience rapid growth. 

The image below depicts where active fires are depositing smoke this afternoon:

Smoke will continue to impact eastern parts of the Puget Lowlands through Wednesday morning, when westerly winds will push in from the coast with rain chances increasing. Areas in the Cascades, namely the towns along Hwy 2, Hwy 12, and in the Wenatchee Valley, will continue to see smoke impacts through Thursday afternoon. The cold front will drive strong westerly winds through the Cascades on Wednesday, with chances of rain increasing by Wednesday night. Rain is likely to fall on all fires in the Cascades between Wednesday night and Thursday morning, ending the smoke impacts for at least a day or two. 

Another ridge will take shape over Washington on Friday and will continue through the weekend, with weather conditions being very similar to what we saw this weekend. Smoke impacts will likely crop back up in that timeframe, but with the wetting rainfall, air quality degradation will be limited to areas closest to the active fires. 

Wednesday, September 21, 2022

It's back, the three-peat we didn't want...

Third time is definitely not a charm on this one... Another plume of smoke, mostly from the Bolt Creek fire, pushed west over the north Seattle/Snohomish county area overnight and early morning. It started off a bit above the ground, as can be see from our vertical lidar (smoke radar-like) in Marysville. See the figure below. The smoke is the dark grey and yellow from about 500 m high up to 2000 m, starting 10 or 11 pm and continuing to the right on this figure. The yellow shows some especially thick plumes...

We can see the situation in the morning from the satellite, the smoke has spread over much of the central Puget Sound. Though apparently not all has mixed down to the surface.

All of this has led to some fairly high and sharp spikes in fine PM for Snohomish County and west/northwest King County as of about 9-10 AM. Many areas are seeing Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups (USG) and at times, Unhealthy AQ. Here's a recent screen grab (10 AM) from the PSCAA sensor map:

We're expecting a decent westerly and northwestly to pick up this morning and into the afternoon. This should push the smoke back to the east and south, and clear out the area by late afternoon. I'm hoping  there's not too much more smoke aloft or upwind of us so the clearing can be fairly rapid, but it's tough to tell. 

So, if you're in the USG or Unhealthy areas, limit time outside and avoid strenuous activities. When you're inside, keep windows and doors closed and find a way to filter your indoor air. See this guidance for more information. 


Wednesday, September 14, 2022

Cool air and moist weather bringing end to smoky skies

Residents in Central and Eastern WA welcomed the cleaner air today, as the lingering smoke from the past few days has mostly cleared out.  The cool air and moist weather is expected to continue in the coming days, with little fire activity expected across the region.  Residual smoke along the WA/ID border should continue clearing today and tomorrow.  All air quality alerts across the state will expire today, except for Chelan county which was extended until 8 am on Friday.  Unfortunately, Chelan county is still seeing moderate fire activity in their area, and fresh smoke is affecting towns like Plain, Leavenworth, Cashmere, Wenatchee, and Quincy.  

There seems to be a running trend the past few years, where strong easterly winds contribute to a large smoke event in September, followed by several days of lingering smoke across the entire region.  So, how bad was the smoke this summer?  Compared to previous years, it seemed like there were less smoky days, but we definitely had some pretty bad days later in the summer.  Check out the monitoring data comparison:

Western Washington experienced "typical" air quality for the summer, with just 3 days in the USG to Unhealthy range, on average.

Central Washington appears to have experienced less smoky days than normal, despite being closest to the largest forest fires in our state.  

Eastern Washington also experienced less smoky days than normal.

The summer isn't quite over yet, and there will likely be a couple more Moderate and USG days in the mix for parts of Central and Eastern WA, but it looks like we had an average to below average year of wildfire smoke.  This makes sense, given that the fire season got off to a late start and our large fires didn't get too bad, compared to previous years.  The Chelan County monitoring timeline for 2022 summarizes our smoke season pretty well:

  Enjoy the cooler weather as we transition to autumn!

Monday, September 12, 2022

Easterly winds are over, but clearing will take time

Residents in Western WA are thankful the easterly winds have ended, and the smoke has mostly cleared out.  

However, unhealthy smoke continues to persist in Central and Eastern WA, and it will take time for regional clearing.  An Air Quality Alert for all of Central and Eastern WA is in effect until 1 pm on Wednesday (9/14/2022).

This week the cool temperatures and rising humidity should bring periodic light mountain showers, which could help to reduce fire activity in the Pasayten Wilderness and North Cascades region of WA. Winds will be light but general westerly flow should improve air quality in most locations over the next couple days. There is below normal potential for new significant fires or growth.  

Residents who live near fires in Chelan, Douglas, Kittitas, and Okanogan counties will have to continue to live with any fresh smoke that is generated from local fires.  Please see the Local Smoke Outlook tab for area specific forecasts provided by the ARA for North Central WA.  Other mountain-valley communities on the western slopes of the Cascades may also smell smoke in the cool hours, due to smoke drainage.  The Health Information tab on this blog has lots of information about how you can protect yourself from smoke.  

Satellite imagery is filled with clouds today, but smoke and fire locations are generalized in the NOAA HMS image below.  Note that some fire locations in the Cascades aren't showing up since cloud and smoke coverage were too thick.

NOAA Hazard Mapping System smoke and fire locations (Monday, 9/12/2022)

Saturday, September 10, 2022

Bolt Creek Fire near Skykomish Threatens Unhealthy Air Quality for North Puget Sound

Emerging incident in Cascades, ongoing Goat Rocks Fire, and Oregon's Cedar Creek Fire spreading significant smoke in Washington

A new wildfire is emerging just north of Skykomish along Highway 2 in the Washington Cascades. With the Goat Rocks Fire experiencing significant growth yesterday, both HWY 2 and HWY 12 are closed near Steven's Pass and White Pass, respectively. Weather conditions through this morning will support rapid fire growth on all active fires in the Cascades, increasing smoke production and endangering the communities of Grotto and Packwood. 

Thick mid-level smoke from the Cedar Creek Fire in Oregon is being pushed northward by shifting mid-level winds, and will overspread western Washington from south to north today. This smoke is elevated above ground level and should not contribute significantly to further reductions in air quality, but will actually help keep temperatures down a few degrees this afternoon and limit the minimum RH values experienced in the Puget Lowlands. 

Air quality impacts will primarily be driven by the Goat Rocks Fire and the Bolt Creek Fire through today on the westside, with smoke from fires in Idaho and Montana driving the air quality degradation on the east side. Large areas of "Unhealthy" air quality are likely to develop across the state this afternoon, with the worst air quality being along HWY 2 and HWY 12, in Snohomish and Lewis counties, and in the southeastern quarter of Washington, including areas near Spokane southward to Walla Walla. 

Conditions will begin to improve for western Washington on Sunday, with Monday seeing a return of "Good" air quality for most areas west of the Cascade crest. Poor air quality will linger across eastern Washington into Monday, but will improve through the week.  

Wildland Fire Meteorologist Matthew Dehr

Friday, September 9, 2022

9/9/2022 East Wind Event Ongoing: Friday and Saturday See Peak Fire Danger

First critical fire weather event of 2022 for western Washington

Fire danger is peaking this weekend across most of Washington, with a critical East Wind event taking shape across the Pacific Northwest. After a week of high fire danger east of the Cascades, western Washington is experiencing widespread critical fire weather today, and conditions will remain critical through tomorrow evening. Relative humidity values across the state will drop into the 15-25% range, with sustained winds of 15-25mph common both east and west of the Cascades. The highest wind gusts will be in the Columbia Gorge and through the Cascade Passes, where isolated gusts of 40-50mph are possible. As active fires continue to burn and new fires emerge, heed local emergency official's orders about evacuations and remain vigilant! 

Active fires producing smoke for much of the state

A northwesterly wind brought smoke and hazardous air quality to the Methow Valley and Lake Chelan from the Chilliwack and Pasayten Complexes in the North Cascades. This morning, a shift in the winds from the northwest to the northeast have redirected smoke from these fires to the west side of the Cascades, with Whatcom and Skagit Counties seeing the most immediate impacts. As the East Wind event continues to unfold, smoke will work southward toward King County and the rest of the south Sound region. Smoke from fires in eastern Washington, Idaho, and Montana will drift toward the Columbia Basin and east slopes of the Cascades.


Air quality impacts expected for the Puget Sound region and eastern Washington

Conditions have improved from Hazardous to Moderate for the Methow Valley and Lake Chelan area this morning, and will continue remain steady for the next 24-48 hours. Air quality is currently Unhealthy for the Wenatchee Valley and along the Skagit River. Moderate air quality is observed over much of the Columbia Basin this morning, and will likely deteriorate slightly over the next 24-48 hours as smoke from fires in Idaho and Montana continues to stream westward. 

Air quality in the Puget Lowlands is generally good this morning, but signs of degradation are present in Whatcom and Skagit counties. Air quality will deteriorate across the west side of the state through this afternoon and tonight as smoke from the fires in the North Cascades continues to pour over the crest of the mountains. Any new fires that develop over the next 24 hours will impact air quality significantly, so it is important to continually monitor your local air quality and take precautions based on the figure below!

Air Quality Index
See full guidance for more info.

DNR Wildland Fire Meteorologist Matthew Dehr

Wednesday, September 7, 2022

9/7/2022 More smoke on the horizon

Yesterday saw minimal fire growth throughout the state and region with calmer winds and lower overnight temps.  As a result, less overnight smoke production occurred.  Monitors are mostly green across the state today, but some near-fire smoke effects are still being seen at Wenatchee Lake, NE Washington (e.g. Pend Oreille county) and in the Lewiston-Clarkston valley.  

The National Weather Service has issued a Red Flag Warning for all counties east of the Cascades crest.  A Red Flag Warning means that critical fire weather conditions are occurring with a combination of strong winds, low relative humidity, and warm temperatures which can contribute to extreme fire behavior.  It should cool off tomorrow a bit as a cold front moves through, but it will remain windy and we expect another round of heat this weekend.  Winds from the NW will prevail today and tomorrow, but a shift will occur on Friday, with predominant winds expected from the east.

Recent fire activity is shown in the map below, with considerable smoke expected to continue from the North Cascades (WA) and Wallowa Mountains (OR).  For specific wildfire information near you, see the Inciweb map.  We don't expect any smoke impacts in WA from the Wallowa Mountain fires for the next couple days, but they will probably affect SE WA over the weekend.  Smoke from the Cascades fires are expected to impact Western WA on Friday.  Fire activity near Lake Wenatchee has decreased, but prevailing winds will continue to push a little smoke into the greater Wenatchee region today and tomorrow.

If you are impacted by smoke in your area, you can reduce exposure by limiting outside activity, staying inside with cleaner indoor air, finding other clean-air spaces, or wearing an N95 mask.

Recent Fire Activity (9/7/2022)

Thursday, September 1, 2022

9/1/2022 Statewide smoke update - More heat and smoke expected

Air quality has deteriorated the past few days in North and Central Washington, with especially active new fire development in the Cascades.  The Wenatchee region and Methow Valley have had the worst air quality lately, with fresh smoke pooling in valleys.  There is also fresh fire activity in NorthEast Washington, with visible smoke North of Spokane.  In general, it should be windy enough this weekend to prevent any long-term build-up of smoke, but smoke impacts will continue to be a problem.

PM2.5 Measurements at Maple Falls, Twisp, Leavenworth, and Wenatchee

Late Friday into Saturday will bring breezy winds, with possible mountain thunderstorms, and the potential for fire spread. Hot, dry conditions will set up ahead of the winds, with Friday set for near-record heat. Temperatures will cool a little over the weekend, but remain above normal.   The expected dynamic weather expected this weekend will give rise to dynamic smoke impacts.  Recently active fire locations are shown below:

Recent fire locations in and around Washington State

Smoke forecasts are not confident during these periods of dynamic weather and new emerging fire growth.  Looking at one member of the Dept. of Ecology HYSPLIT forecasts, we see a few key features that have reasonable confidence:

  • Smoke in Central WA should mostly clear out on Friday, but Saturday will bring Moderate to Unhealthy smoke back to the Methow Valley and Wenatchee areas.  Winds should disperse any lingering smoke, but expect to keep smelling smoke on the following days.
  • Smoke on Friday in SouthEast WA (e.g. Asotin, Garfield, Columbia, Walla Walla counties) is expected from the fires in the Blue Mountains, this should mostly clear out on Saturday though.
  • Inland Western Washington will likely get some lingering smoke from the Cascade fires on Monday, pooling smoke in mountain valleys.  Winds should push that smoke back east though, and shouldn't last long.
HYSPLIT Forecast of Smoke for Labor Day Weekend

The 5-day forecasts available on the Smoke Blog map are automatically updated based on multiple smoke forecasts.  Expect changes in predictions as weather forecasts and new fire locations get ingested into nightly simulations.

You can find resources on how to protect yourself from smoke impacts on the Health Resources tab.

Tuesday, August 23, 2022

8/23/2022 How to find local smoke outlooks

For the summer wildfire smoke season, we're bringing back the "LOCAL SMOKE OUTLOOKS" tab for our readers to quickly and easily access the custom smoke forecasts prepared by Air Resource Advisors.

Air Resource Advisors are trained to be dispatched to an incident to assist with understanding and predicting smoke impacts on the public and fire personnel. They analyze, summarize, and communicate these impacts to incident teams, air quality regulators, and the public.

Notice the new tab along the top border of the blog content area and click on "LOCAL SMOKE OUTLOOKS" to access the forecasts. Outlooks are available in English and translated into Spanish shortly thereafter.

We're also excited to introduce another new feature to the WASmokeblog. Now, the Local Smoke Outlooks can also be accessed directly from the map. 

If you see a blue box on the map, that means a smoke outlook is available for that area. Click inside the blue box, then click "View the Smoke Outlook" for local information from

Interested in smoke forecasts prepared for other states?
You can find the full set of smoke outlooks prepared by Air Resource Advisors at this link:

For more tips on using the map, read our 8/2/2022 post.

Friday, August 19, 2022

8/19/2022 Weekend smoke outlook: A more active weather pattern

Current Situation

AQI values in the "Moderate" category have been established across much of eastern Washington since Wednesday, with AQI's reaching sustained "Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups" levels in the vicinity of Lake Wenatchee as the Irving Peak and White River fires continue to slowly burn downward in elevation. 

As we head into the weekend, a change in the weather pattern is on the way that should provide relief to most areas outside the Lake Wenatchee/Wenatchee Valley region. The culprit for the smoke impacts to Spokane and other areas of far eastern Washington was light north and northeasterly winds that developed Wednesday under strong high pressure conditions. Our typical westerly winds return today and will last through the weekend into early next week as a series of upper level systems work across the state. 

What does this mean for air quality and smoke intrusions in Washington?

Smoke from the Diamond Watch and Thor fires, burning most of this summer in a remote portion of northeastern Pend Orielle county, will likely be cleared out of Spokane and surrounding areas as stronger westerly and southwesterly winds spread over eastern Washington tonight through Saturday morning. This pattern lasts through the early part of next week before another ridge of high pressure builds back into the region on Tuesday and Wednesday. Similar to this past week, north and northeasterly winds will return to eastern Washington and allow more smoke from the Diamond Watch fire to settle into Spokane and the Columbia Basin on Wednesday and Thursday of next week. 

Smoke from the Irving Peak and White River fires will be influenced by the westerly winds spilling through the Cascade gaps through this weekend, resulting in smoke impacts being confined to Lake Wenatchee and down the Wenatchee Valley. Over the past 48-72 hours, the fire has burned downward in elevation, creating smoke below the nighttime inversion and allowing it to settle into the valleys surrounding the fire. Weather conditions over the weekend will be favorable to reduce the intensity of afternoon burning conditions, limiting smoke production, but with the fire now burning at lower elevations, smoke is more likely to hang around in the Lake Wenatchee and Wenatchee Valley through the weekend. I expect conditions to remain steady for the time being before another round of easterly upslope flow develops in the middle of next week to further trap smoke along the Cascade crest. 

Elsewhere through the weekend, emerging events such as the Wagner Road fire (now at 5500 acres in Whitman County) will continue to cause local drops in air quality, as is noted at Ritzville this afternoon. Thunderstorms this afternoon in the Okanagan and North Cascades will need to be monitored for potential new fire starts. 

The White River and Irving Peak fires had their most active periods of burning on Wednesday as relative humidity values plummeted below 20%, a response to weak easterly upslope flow that established in response to a strong thermal trough over the Cascades and high pressure in the Columbia Basin. This weekend, the Cascades will see a return to the typical westerly flow as a series of storm systems impact western Washington. After some possible showers and thunderstorms on Monday, eastern Washington will see a return to a pattern similar to what we saw Wednesday of this week, potentially starting another round of more active burn conditions. 

Photo of the White River Fire during the active burning period on Wednesday. Courtesy NWCC.

Matthew Dehr
Wildland Fire Meteorologist
Washington DNR 

Thursday, August 18, 2022

8/18/2022 Spokane, Darrington, and Wenatchee smoke update

Smoke from the Irving Peak and White River wildfires (NW of Lake Wenatchee) drifted across the Cascades early this morning, with moderate impacts in Darrington and other inland locations in Snohomish county.  That smoke should clear out later today and winds are not expected to carry over any more smoke in the near future.  Residents near Cashmere, Wenatchee, Leavenworth, and Chelan will continue to see moderate to USG smoke impacts over the next few days, as westerly winds will prevail.

Meanwhile, the Diamond Watch wildfire (NE corner of WA) has been sending moderate smoke south into Pend Oreille and Spokane counties.  This may clear up a bit today but Spokane-area residents should expect another moderate smoke push tomorrow morning too.  On Saturday, winds should shift and push Diamond Watch smoke north instead.

At moderate AQI, some people can be especially sensitive to particle pollution and should take steps to protect their health (limit time outside and avoid strenuous outdoor activity). Sensitive groups should watch out for symptoms.

All of the active wildfires in our state are under 1,000 acres, so smoke impacts haven't gotten too bad.  However, there are several new emerging fires from recent lightning strikes.  Plus this weekend will be hot, dry, and gusty.  So, there is potential for new and active fires to grow considerably over the next couple days.   The main risk of new significant fires appears to be in north central Washington.

Don't get beat by the heat over the next few days in Central and Eastern WA!  Hydrate, find shade, and keep cool!

Tuesday, August 16, 2022

8/16/2022 Make your own filter fan

One easy and affordable way to make your own air cleaner at home is with a box fan and a furnace filter. These “filter fans” can filter out the small particles that are common in wildfire or wood smoke. Particle pollution can lead to a number of immediate and long-term health impacts such as trouble breathing, asthma attacks, and lung and heart disease. Particle pollution is especially dangerous for children, the elderly, and people with sensitive immune systems.

The Puget Sound Clean Air Agency measured air pollution levels in four homes using filter fans. In smaller rooms, with the windows and doors closed, we found up to a 90% reduction in air pollution (1). Other studies have found a similar reduction in air pollution during wildfire smoke events (2).

Photo credit: Adam Petrusky, PSCAA

Supplies and Assembly

  • Box fan
    • Note: Look for a model with the controls/cords on the top or bottom of the fan. Having controls or cords in the center of the fan makes it hard to put on the filter.
  • 20x20x1 inch MERV-13 filter
    • Note: FPR 10 and MPR 1900 rated filters are equivalent to MERV-13.
  • Assembly: Tape the filter onto the back of the fan.

Important Tips While Using a Filter Fan

Testing by UL found no safety concerns with filter fans. Even so, it is important to follow these instructions:
  • Follow the box fan manufacturer’s instructions, which can include: Don't leave children unattended when the fan is in use, don't use an extension cord, don’t use near water, and don't use a damaged or malfunctioning fan.
  • If you are using your own fan, make sure it is 2012 or newer. Older models pose a fire risk and should not be used.
  • Use the filter fan in the room you spend the most time in.
  • Position the filter fan toward the middle of the room, away from walls, drapes, and dusty spaces.
  • Close all windows and doors while filter fan is in use. The filter fan won’t be as effective if pollution from outside is coming into the room. However, if it is too hot inside, you can open a window.
  • Running the filter fan in a window will result in reduced filtration and make the filter get dirty faster.
  • It takes at least 10-15 minutes to clean a small room (15’x15’).
  • The filter fan cannot clean an entire large room. If you are in a large room, place the filter fan near you so that it keeps the air around you clean.
  • Replace filters after 3 months of use or when they look dirty.