Fire Smoke Stretches Across the Northwest — How to Stay Safe

(Photo courtesy PNW Smoke Cooperators)
(Photo courtesy PNW Smoke Cooperators)

Just as we thought the haze and smoke in the air was due to clear out last week, a fresh wave enveloped us this week. It’s not just a problem in the Puget Sound region — the entire Pacific Northwest and much of the West is experiencing unhealthy air quality. That means you may have to cancel your hiking or boating adventure.

Here’s what NOAA had to say: “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.”

On Monday, the air was deemed unhealthy for everyone, not just people with sensitive health. According to the Washington Smoke Blog (a multiagency partnership), the smoke will continue through Wednesday, and will start clearing on Thursday in Western Washington and Friday in Eastern Washington.

While the agencies monitoring the air quality can only issue short-term forecasts, you can monitor the daily air quality online here: Washington’s Air Quality Monitoring Network.

An air quality alert by the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency included the following recommendations:

  • Stay indoors when possible.
  • Limit physical activity outdoors, such as running, bicycling, physical labor and sports.
  • Close windows in your home, if possible, and keep the indoor air clean. If you have an air conditioner, use the “recirculation” switch. Use an indoor air filter if available.
  • If you do not have an air conditioner, consider finding a public place with clean, air-conditioned indoor air like a public library or a community center.
  • Avoid driving when possible. If you must drive, keep the windows closed. If you use the car’s fan or air conditioning, make sure the system recirculates air from inside the car; don’t pull air from outside.
  • Schools, camps, sports teams and daycare providers should consider postponing outdoor activities or moving them indoors.

For more information, go to the Washington Department of Health website.