Comparing Spokane's air quality: 2015 to 2017

KREM 2's Amanda Roley compares the numbers from 2 years ago to what we're seeing now.

SPOKANE, Wash --- We usually don't see this much smoke. The last time it was really bad was back in 2015 during the Okanogan Complex fire. 
 
The fire made the average air quality index reach 171, which is "unhealthy". Spokane Regional Clean Air Agency said that's because on August 21 the air got really bad, really fast. 
 
"In 2015, we were right in the middle of a smoke plume for a few hours. The smoke was very thick where you could barely see your neighbor's house," Mark Rowe with Spokane Regional Clean Air Agency said.
 
Today our air quality hovered between "very unhealthy" and "unhealthy."
 
When you compare these two major wildfire years, 2015 looks much worse. But Rowe said it's not because the region this year has been blanketed with smoke for a longer period of time. 
 
The Spokane Regional Clean Air Agency said in previous years, it was pretty uncommon for the air quality to reach "very unhealthy", or worse, in the Spokane area. But now they say it's becoming more common.
 
"It's getting to the point where at least I'm expecting it in the summer time," said Rowe.
 
Data from Clean Air Agency shows in 1999 the average AQI reached "very unhealthy." The air quality did reach unhealthy levels in 2012. But Rowe said it was extremely rare for conditions to reach the level it was in 1999.  
 
"It seemed like 2015 was some what of an anomaly because of that," Rowe said. "But now here we have it again in 2017. So we've had to two really bad wildfire years."

© 2017 KREM-TV


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