Department of Ecology News Release - September 12, 2012

12-297

Smoky skies blanketing much of Eastern Washington

YAKIMA – Smoky skies continue to blanket much of Central and Eastern Washington as a number of fires burn from the Canadian border to the Columbia River border with Oregon.

Smoke from the lightning-sparked wildfires is gathering in the foothills and valleys of the Cascade Range around Wenatchee, Ellensburg and Yakima and the ranges around Spokane, Clarkston and elsewhere in the Columbia Basin.

Over the next few days, air quality in some areas will improve during the day and degrade at night, while the reverse could be true for other areas. Smoke from wildfires in Idaho is likely to impact the far eastern part of the state as well. Though some relief is expected by late Friday, conditions conducive to further wildfire growth are possible on Saturday.

Crews from the U.S. Forest Service and the Washington Department of Natural Resources (DNR) are battling the blazes, with reinforcements brought in from across the nation.

Wildfires produce plenty of harmful smoke. The biggest threat to people’s health comes from the fine particles in smoke. These tiny particles can get into your eyes and lungs, where they can cause health problems such as burning eyes, runny nose and illness such as bronchitis. Fine particles also can aggravate heart and lung diseases, and even lead to death.

Weather influences how severe smoke impacts may be. If the air is stagnant, the concentration of fine particles increases in the air locally. If winds are blowing, they can move smoke rapidly to areas hundreds of miles downwind from a fire.

When smoke and fine particle levels are high enough, even healthy people may be affected. To protect yourself, it’s important to limit your exposure to smoke – especially if you are susceptible. Here are some steps you can take:

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 More information:

Washington Air Quality Advisory (WAQA) (https://fortress.wa.gov/ecy/enviwa/Default.ltr.aspx)

 Ecology's social media (www.ecy.wa.gov/about/newmedia.html)