Wildfires hurting air quality in Washington

Wildfires hurting air quality in Washington

Credit: Michael Bendtsen

Masks help Wenatchee boys protect themselves from smoke from wildfires.


by KING 5 News and Associated Press


Posted on September 17, 2012 at 3:59 PM

Wildfires are hurting air quality in much of Washington, as forecasters issued a stagnant weather advisory to last at least through Wednesday afternoon.

The National Weather Service says smoke from the blazes has drifted west over the Cascade Range but has not yet settled close to the ground. That could change by Tuesday, when some smoke is expected in the western foothills of the Cascades.

An inversion moved into the Wenatchee area east of the mountains on Sunday evening, holding smoke in the region where 1,700 people were fighting a complex of wildfires burning on about 51 square miles.

Hundreds of people have been evacuated as the fires were helped by unseasonably warm temperatures. The area is extremely dry, and conditions are right for rapid growth of existing fires and new fire starts.

Health officials in Central Washington say air quality in Wenatchee remains “hazardous” and in Leavenworth the air is unhealthy.

The Chelan-Douglas Health District says the smoke is a real concern because fine particles carry toxic material deep into the sensitive areas of the lungs.

Officials said Monday that employers should recognize that many people have real health problems in the smokey conditions, and should be lenient in allowing absences. This is especially important for workplaces unable to keep out the smoke, or for jobs done outdoors.

They are even advising temporary closure if there is insufficient staffing or customers to stay open.

Officials are advising people to limit exposure to outside air and not to do anything that would increase breathing rate.

People who must go outside should use an N-95 mask or a P-100 painter’s mask - not a dust mask or cloth cover. The fine particles in the smoke can pass through the cloth or dust mask.

Officials advise the following:

  • Keep windows closed.
  • Limit time outdoors.
  • If possible, go to an area unaffected by the wildfire smoke.
  • Do not bring outside air into your home, office or school buildings.

Anyone who has headaches, dizziness or nausea or increased respiratory symptoms when they are at home with the windows closed should consider leaving the area until the smoke clears or going to a clean air shelter sponsored by the American Red Cross.

The Red Cross has established a clean air shelter in Wenatchee in the Seventh Day Adventist Church at 5th and Western.


Department of Health website

Chelan Douglas Public Health