Canadian fires affect county air quality

Kirk Boxleitner
Posted 8/8/17

State and county health officials acknowledged that western Washington’s air quality has taken a hit over the past week, as smoke from Canadian wildfires drifted south.

North winds moved smoke …

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Canadian fires affect county air quality


State and county health officials acknowledged that western Washington’s air quality has taken a hit over the past week, as smoke from Canadian wildfires drifted south.

North winds moved smoke from a number of large British Columbia wildfires into Washington state.

“There’s obviously been concerns about the public health impact,” said Stuart Whitford, environmental health and water quality director for Jefferson County Public Health. “We’ve received an increased level of calls coming in about this.”

Since midday on Tuesday, Aug. 1, air-quality monitors across the state – including in all six of the counties served by the Olympic Region Clean Air Agency (ORCAA) – have shown increased levels of air pollution, reaching into “moderate” and even “unhealthy” ranges on the Washington Air Quality Advisory chart:

Whitford explained that Jefferson County health officials want residents to be aware of current air quality conditions and take necessary steps to avoid negative health effects.

Citizens can also monitor the current and forecasted Jefferson County air quality index at the AirNow website:

Air quality monitors had already reached the “Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups” range by Aug. 1, and the smoke continued to cause problems through much of Wednesday, Aug. 2.

Although the smoke was initially projected to begin clearing by the evening of Aug. 2, the forecast was revised Friday, Aug. 4 to predict the smoke would recede over the weekend.

On Monday, Aug. 7, Whitford noted that the Port Townsend air monitoring station, at 3939 San Juan Ave., showed an air quality of “Good,” and added that National Weather Service forecasts showed still-smoky skies on Tuesday, Aug. 8, giving way to sunny and mostly clear skies by Wednesday, Aug. 9.

“Obviously, it’s not perfect, but the forecasts seem to match what we’ve been monitoring,” Whitford said.

Whitford pointed out that, as of Aug. 5, the wildfires were the worst that British Columbia had seen since 1958, burning more than 1.2 million acres of forest, bush and grassland.

As such, locals should exercise extra care outdoors.

“Smoke from wildfires can be particularly dangerous for sensitive groups, including people with heart or lung disease, asthma or diabetes, as well as infants, children, adults older than 65, pregnant women or those who have had a stroke,” Whitford said. “People in any of those sensitive groups should limit their time outdoors.”

Additional resources include:

• Washington Smoke Information:

Contains information about smoke as well as active wildfires.

• National Weather Service:

Provides weather-related alerts, including for air quality.

• Washington State Department of Health’s Wildfire Smoke page:

Explains the dangers of wildfire smoke.

• Air Pollution and School Activities table:

Gives specific recommendations for outdoor activities for children based on air-quality conditions.

For more information about health concerns relating to air quality or informational resources, contact Jefferson County Public Health.

Washington’s complete network of air monitoring stations – including those managed and maintained by ORCAA – can be found on the Department of Ecology’s website:

County burn ban upgraded

The Jefferson County Fire Chiefs Association has upgraded the burn ban status throughout the county, based on recent weather conditions and a total burn ban on government lands recently announced by the Department of Natural Resources.

The burn ban previously allowed barbeque grills, and recreational and ceremonial fires in fire pits, but not yard debris burns.

According to East Jefferson Fire Chief Gordon Pomeroy, the burn ban now includes all ground fires, camp fires, recreational and ceremonial fires.

The only outdoor burns currently allowed are inside gas or charcoal-powered barbeque grills.

For burn ban updates, log onto:


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