SPOKANE COUNTY, Wash. — The Spokane Regional Health District is recommending businesses allow employees to work from home Monday as hazardous air quality continues in Spokane County.
SRHD said its recommendation will remain as long as the air quality remains hazardous according to the air quality index. As of Monday morning, Spokane's air quality index was at 434, firmly in the hazardous range.
On Saturday, SRHD issued a public safety alert warning residents to stay indoors due to poor air quality.
The City of Spokane, the National Weather Service, the Spokane Regional Clean Air Agency, the Red Cross, and Spokane County Emergency Management got on an emergency call on Saturday afternoon about issuing the alert, according to Lisa Woodard with the Spokane Regional Clean Air Agency.
The Spokane Regional Clean Air Agency has never seen an hourly average Air Quality reading as high it got on Saturday afternoon, Woodward said.
"This is an unprecedented number for us," she added.
Spokane's Health Officer Dr. Bob Lutz said everyone in the region is put at risk by the wildfire smoke, not just people with underlying conditions.
Dr. Lutz explained that fine particulate matter in the air can cause small particles to get into the lungs, causing inflammation that can impact every organ in someone's body.
"Everyone is going to have effects if they're out taking in this very, very dirty air with fine particles," Lutz said.
The City of Spokane is encouraging houseless individuals to take advantage of available shelter space in the city. Community Housing and Human Services is in contact with all shelter providers and outreach staff highlighting air quality concerns and asking that shelters continue to provide space for those who may need it, according to a letter from the city.
An Air Quality Alert was issued for all of Washington state on Thursday. For the Spokane area, it lasts until 11 a.m. on Monday.
Spokane's air quality is some of the worst in Washington State, with Yakima and Kennewick also reporting AQI's in the high 400's.
The west coast is reporting some of the worst air quality in the world, with some small towns in Oregon reported AQI's in the 500 to 600 range.
The best thing people can do to ensure clean air inside their homes is to keep windows and doors closed, run air conditioners on a "recirculate" setting instead of a "fresh air" setting, and limit indoor air pollution by avoiding incense, sprays, fireplaces or gas stoves, according to the Spokane Clean Air Agency. Don’t broil or fry food. Don’t vacuum unless your vacuum has a HEPA filter because vacuuming stirs up particles already inside your home.