Sunday, July 30, 2023

Eagle Bluff Fire threatening Oroville

The Eagle Bluff fire exploded yesterday and continues to grow, with over 10,000 acres burned so far. There was some minimal lightning recently, but the cause is still officially under investigation.   Evacuations are in effect near Oroville, in Okanogan county and in Canada around Osoyoos.  Shelter is available at the Oroville High School.  Fire crews and aircraft are fighting the fire actively, but the fire is burning quickly in timber and brush with wind driven runs. Structures are threatened and road closures are in effect.

Moderate to Unhealthy smoke surrounds the area along Highway US-97 from Omak to Osoyoos.  Smoky conditions in Okanogan county should be expected for the coming days.  This fire is rapidly spreading, please stay up to date on evacautions via Okanogan County Emergency Management.

        Smoke from the Eagle Bluff Fire.  Source KREM 2 News.  Credit: Susan Christensen

Friday, July 28, 2023

Weekend Outlook: no smoke on the horizon

The Newell Road Fire is now at 61,000 acres and 71% contained, and smoke impacts from the fire have continued to decrease since last weekend. We're also unlikely to see smoke impacts from the Simnasho and Bedrock fires currently burning in Oregon. Washington's Air Quality should continue to be GOOD for the near future.

Please continue to recreate responsibly this weekend by observing fire bans and fully extinguishing recreational fires, as high winds can exacerbate fire spread.

And to wrap up this Friday post, a quick aside about our air quality so far this wildfire season. If you're thinking that in general air quality has been pretty good, you're not wrong! Below is a plot of observed daily air quality levels for each day since May. Each row corresponds to the maximum air quality level observed in each county on a given day. Lots of green, or GOOD air quality! 

Saturday, July 22, 2023

Newell Road Fire Grows Quickly and Sends Smoke to Tri-Cities

The Newell Road Fire in Klickitat County has grown considerably over the past day, with recent reports that it has burned 30,000 acres of grass, brush, and trees.  Evacuations are in effect. Westerly winds will continue and strengthen, which could lead to more rapid fire growth over the next couple days.  The fire is sending smoke into Benton and Franklin Counties, which is expected to continue through the weekend.  We are seeing Moderate to USG air quality in the Tri-Cities.  

We also expect some light smoke aloft in southeast Washington on Monday from the fires in Oregon.

Please see the Health Information tab on this blog to learn how you can protect yourself from wildfire smoke.

Smoke from the Newell Road Fire; source USTimesPost

Friday, July 21, 2023

High Altitude Smoke and Eastside Fire Weather

Close observers of the Fire and Smoke Map ( over the last few days may have noticed the persistent smoke plume overlaying our region, as seen from the Thursday 7/20 afternoon image below.

Very close observers may have wondered: “If the skies of Washington State have been dimmed by smoke from wildfires in Oregon and Canada for the last few days, how is it that our Air Quality index has mostly remained GOOD?”

The answer is that the smoke plume from these out of region fires has remained aloft at or above 10k feet; when smoke is present at that altitude but not at ground level, it can register on satellite imagery, but not on air quality monitors and sensors on the ground.

Within the state, fires on Joint Base Lewis-McChord have contributed near surface smoke to the south Puget Sound beginning on Wednesday 7/19. At least one these fires is burning in the Artillery Impact Area and is therefore not subject to full suppression tactics. Expect this fire to continue to produce mild-moderate smoke impacts locally until it burns itself out.

NOAA HRRR Near Surface Smoke: 7/20 @ 3:15pm

Other smaller fires did occur on both sides of the Cascades this week, but were quickly suppressed, and did not have lasting impacts on local air quality.

Moving into the weekend, the National Weather Service has identified elevated fire risk for the eastside of the state from Friday through Monday. By observing fire bans, fully extinguishing recreational fires where they are allowed, and traveling responsibly you are making a positive contribution to Washington State’s public health and safety.

Enjoy the weekend!

Wednesday, July 19, 2023

Industrial Fire in Longview Causing Smoke Impacts in the Vancouver/Portland Area

Residents in the Vancouver/Portland area woke up to unhealthy air quality levels this morning. Air quality deteriorated overnight due to transported smoke from an industrial fire at Nippon Dynawave Packaging in Longview that started yesterday evening.

    Source: EPA Fire and Smoke Map, 9am

The smoke arrived in the Vancouver area around 8pm last night--the hourly PM2.5 timeseries below shows the smoke transport down the Columbia River in the evening hours and impacting the air quality monitors in Vancouver; the Longview monitor is upwind of the fire location so did not observe elevated PM2.5 concentrations. 

We are starting to see decreases in PM2.5 concentrations as mixing and ventilation increases this morning, and clearing should continue throughout the day. However, smoke impacts in Vancouver will likely persist through tomorrow as the fire continues to smolder and a marine layer traps any smoke near the surface. 

Also contributing to smoke in the area is a fire at an abandoned K-Mart building in northeast Portland.

The Southwest Clean Air Agency has issued a Air Pollution Advisory for Clark and Cowlitz Counties today through Friday, July 21. We'll continue to monitor the situation and update the blog as needed.

Friday, July 14, 2023

Weekend Fire Weather Watch and Heat Warning

The National Weather Service has issued a Heat Warning and Fire Weather Watch for Central and Eastern WA, with temperatures over 100 degrees expected in the Tri-Cities and other nearby areas.  The hottest temperatures will be on Sunday in the Columbia Basin, while winds become gusty.  A dry cold front will sweep through on Monday delivering strong winds with the potential to spread any new fires.  We will need to take extra care to recreate responsibly this weekend by observing fire bans, and fully extinguishing recreational fires where they are allowed. Stay hydrated and prepare for high temps! 

There aren't any large fires in Washington right now but there are some small recent fires near the southern border of our state.  The Knight Road fire in Klickitat County has subsided and the Gordon Butte Fire along Fulton Ridge in Oregon should be manageable.

We have seen occasional moderate air quality from Canadian wildfires skirting across the northeast border of our state, and this will likely continue into the future.  However, we are getting really good wind directions to avoid Canadian smoke and this should continue for the near-term.  We expect Good air quality in Washington through the weekend, except for some moderate local impacts from any new fires that occur.  The fires in Canada are getting really bad though, so it will be an issue for us in the weeks to come.  

GOES Image of Canadian Wildfire Smoke - July 14 @ 8 a.m. PDT

Wednesday, July 5, 2023

Fireworks, wildfire smoke, and hot weather

The combination of good weather (a high pressure system), wildfire smoke from British Columbia, and fireworks led to very high air pollution last night in the Puget Sound area.  This was particularly true in Pierce County where air quality was in the Very Unhealthy range earlier this morning.  Thankfully air quality has greatly improved and most areas are Moderate.


Air quality as of 12pm 7/5/2023

With another hot day today we should see good vertical mixing – when the air near the ground heats up and rises, bringing smoke with it.  This will dilute the smoke and continue to improve air quality.

The majority of the pollution we saw last night was due to fireworks.  The wildfire smoke from British Columbia, which arrived earlier in the day on July 4th, only pushed us from Good to Moderate.  We don’t expect more of that smoke in the near future, though the fires are still burning and the possibility of smoke later on remains.

Given that, we may see another (smaller) pollution spike tonight depending on how many fireworks are left over.

Also, there is a wildfire near Shelton, the McEwan fire, that started yesterday afternoon and has burned around 250 acres as of last count.  Crews are working to create fire lines to prevent the fire from spreading.  Air quality in Shelton is currently at Unhealthy For Sensitive Groups and smoke impacts are expected to persist for the time being.  So far we expect impacts to be local, but models show that some smoke could reach Pierce County overnight.

Sensors in Skamania county along the Columbia river are showing USG smoke impacts from the Tunnel Five fire.

We will continue to monitor the situation and update as needed.



Monday, July 3, 2023

Tunnel Five Fire near White Salmon and 4th of July Update

Just a couple miles west of White Salmon, the Tunnel Five fire is burning actively in timber and brush, causing local smoke impacts in Skamania and Klickitat counties along the Columbia river.  Evacuations and road closures are in effect while crews work on containing the fire.  Currently the fire has burned over 500 acres in hot/dry conditions, and winds are expected to send smoke around the Columbia river gorge in that area for the next few days.  White Salmon is currently showing unhealthy air on sensors, with moderate smoke making its way to Dallesport.  Tuesday and Wednesday will have a wind shift, with local smoke impacts expected in Carson, Stevenson, and North Bonneville.

Image: Smoke from the Tunnel Five fire on July 2, 2023.  Source:

Hot and dry weather is expected through this week with fire danger expected to peak on Wednesday/Thursday. Fire potential is elevated on the 4th of July due to the combination of rising fire danger, dry weather, and potential extra ignitions. The National Weather Service currently has a Red Flag Warning for Central WA and SouthWest WA.

Meanwhile, we expect some moderate smoke to impact parts of WA on Tuesday/Wednesday from the BC fires.  This will likely cause hazy conditions and some minor smoke impacts, at first across the northern counties of the state (e.g. Clallam, Whatcom, Okanogan, etc.) and potentially lingering across the state into Thursday.

Enjoy your mid-week Holiday!