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 Airfire.org.

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: https://outlooks.airfire.org/outlook

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.


Monday, August 15, 2022

8/15/2022 White River fire sending smoke to Wenatchee region

The White River Fire on Wenatchee Ridge, northwest of Lake Wenatchee, has been sending smoke to Leavenworth, Cashmere, and Wenatchee today. Residents in the area should expect continued intermittent smoke throughout the next few days.  Recreationists are advised to stay away from the Wenatchee Ridge area where the White River and Irving Peak Fires are burning. 

See active Chelan emergency info here.  

The White River (516 acres) and Irving Peak (160 acres) fires were ignited by lightning on Friday.  InciWeb provided the following update today:

"Crews on the White River Fire continue to assess and prepare structure protection along Sears Creek Road (FS 6404) and White River Road. Dozers will be working on spur roads off the FS 6404 Road to open and improve access to the fire area. Two aircraft are currently assigned to the incident while other initial attack aircraft are assisting."

"Irving peak fire gained more resources; it is staffed with multiple engines, hand crews, and heavy equipment. Crews focus on scouting potential control lines and begin structure protection along Little Wenatchee Road (FS Road 6500)."

"A Type 2 Incident Management Team has been ordered to manage the White River and Irving Peak Fires."

"Chelan County has issued a Level 3 evacuation (Go Now) for Sears Creek Road, White River Road is at a Level 2 (Be Prepared), and Little Wenatchee Road is at a Level 1 (Stay Alert)."

Fire.Airnow.Gov image of smoke and air quality on Monday afternoon.

Thursday, August 11, 2022

8/11/2022 Be ready to protect yourself before the smoke hits (and a forecast on that)

It’s always best to be prepared to protect yourself from wildfire smoke—which seems hard to think about with the quiet season we are having so far. But the gift of a slow start to fire season is more time to buy supplies you may need, which typically sell out once the smoke hits.

Reduce your exposure to wildfire smoke by following these steps:

  • Limit outdoor physical activity and take it easy inside.
  • Keep indoor air cleaner by:
    • Closing windows and doors, unless it is too hot to maintain safe temperatures.
    • Not adding to indoor air pollution, such as cigarette smoking or burning candles.
    • Filtering indoor air through an HVAC system, HEPA portable air cleaner, or a DIY box fan filter.
      • There are technical details involved with all of these options and they
        require supplies, so do your homework.
      • Filtering indoor air is the best way to keep you and your family safe.
      • You will hear more about how to build a DIY box fan filter from our expert soon.
    • Setting air conditioners to re-circulate.
  • Seek clean air elsewhere, if the air quality remains poor and it is not possible to keep the air in your home clean or cool.
  • If you must be outside, wear a properly fitted, NIOSH-approved particulate respirator, such as an N95 mask.

For more information see the Health Information Tab or visit WA DOH’s Smoke from Fires webpage.


Bonus smoke forecast from our meteorologist: 

Well over 1,000 lightning strikes have been detected in Washington over the past 48 hours, and with dry and breezy conditions returning this weekend, an uptick in new lightning fires is expected both in the Olympics and the Cascades. Weather conditions west of the Cascades are not conducive to fast fire growth through the weekend, but the same cannot be said for areas east of the Cascades. A new fire 5-10 miles west of Lake Wenatchee was noted this morning after storms exited the region, and there is concern that this fire could grow as the weather becomes drier and breezier this weekend. Smoke from the fire is currently visible on satellite moving north-northwest, but winds are expected to shift over the next 24-48 hours and begin blowing the smoke to the east. At this time, smoke settling in the Puget Lowlands looks unlikely, but areas near Chelan, Wenatchee, and Omak need to monitor fire developments through the weekend. As weather conditions become more conducive to fire growth over the next week, we will be monitoring for those potential smoke impacts and updating this blog as more information becomes available.

Thursday, August 4, 2022

8/4/2022 Recent fires sending moderate smoke to parts of central and eastern Washington

Several fires around our state have started to cause moderate smoke impacts in parts of central and eastern Washington. The Keremeos Creek wildfire in BC (north of Oroville) has burned more than 10,000 acres and periodically has been sending smoke to the northern parts of Okanogan, Ferry, and Stevens counties.  Meanwhile the Vantage Highway fire (east of Ellensburg) has also burned more than 10,000 acres, but with minimal smoke impacts.  Two new wildfires also cropped up yesterday: the Cow Canyon fire (over 2,000 acres, southwest of Ellensburg) and the Williams Lake fire (over 3,200 acres, southwest of Spokane County).  If you live somewhere near a wildfire, make sure to check evacuation alerts and protect yourself from smoke impacts.

So far smoke impacts this year have been minimal, and thankfully fire crews have been able to concentrate resources effectively to minimize fire growth.  However, another heat wave is expected next week, so fire growth and new fires will continue to be a concern.

Tuesday, August 2, 2022

8/2/2022 Quick tips for using the AirNow Fire and Smoke map

Fortunately, this summer has been fairly uneventful for most of the state in regards to wildfire smoke so we thought we’d take a moment and show you some tips on how get the most out of the AirNow Fire and Smoke Map. 

Zooming in and out 

To zoom in and out simply click on the map and scroll forward or backward with your mouse. You can also drag the map left to right, by clicking and holding as you drag.

What the icons mean

The map icons show the locations of permanent and temporary air quality monitors and sensors, as well as where the fires and smoke are.

If you click on an icon, you can get more detailed information on air quality and fire incidents. 
For information about data sources, or to add or remove data layers, click the “layers” icon.

Get the smoke forecast 

Use the blue slider bar to get smoke forecasts for up to 5 days (when available).  

You can click on a specific area (polygon shape) to get more information. 


ColorVision Assist feature 

A version of the map is available for people with color vision deficiencies. This version uses a modified color scale that makes it easier for some people to distinguish between the colors of the U.S. Air Quality Index (AQI). 

To open the ColorVision Assist layer, click the multi-colored wheel in the upper right hand corner of the map.

Click on the icon again to disable the ColorVision Assist. 

Get more help 

For more assistance on using the map features, view the full instructional guide, or click on the white question mark in the upper right hand corner.