Department of Ecology News Release - October 8, 2012

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Computer modeling shows wetter weather may help clear smoke next weekend

SPOKANE - Smoke from wildfires in Washington and Idaho is still affecting residents of Washington in several areas as the state moves into a fifth week of poor air quality.  The Governor's burn ban has been extended to cover all Washington counties, and now runs through midnight on Monday, Oct. 15, 2012.

Don't expect the wildfires to be doused with rain this work week. Though firefighters have been making great progress in fighting the fires, they continue to smolder. For several days, however, computer models have been hinting at a change to more typical cooler and wetter October weather, possibly starting this coming weekend.

Washington Department of Ecology (Ecology) air quality monitors indicate Wenatchee, Omak, Entiat, Cashmere, Trout Lake and Clarkston are all in the "unhealthy" category this morning, while Leavenworth, Ellensburg, Chelan and Pullman are recording "unhealthy for sensitive groups." Other monitors statewide are almost evenly split between "good" and "moderate" air quality. Most of Spokane is reading "moderate."

According to Ranil Dhammapala, air quality forecaster for Ecology, Western Washington was spared from most of the wildfire smoke yesterday, while far Eastern Washington felt the effects of some smoke from Idaho wildfires, especially in Clarkston and the Palouse. Eastern Washington should see a short-lived uptick in northerly winds this afternoon that will help disperse the smoke.

In addition, locally generated wood smoke is measurable at many sites across the state.

Easterly winds are gone and unlikely to return this week. Today and Tuesday should see mostly calm-to-mild winds, depending on the local terrain. Areas closest to the fires will see "unhealthy" air. Many parts of the rest of Washington will experience a mixture of "good," "moderate" and "unhealthy for sensitive groups" conditions, with some daytime clearing.

The National Weather Service issued an Air Quality Alert for Douglas, Chelan and Kittitas counties to run through Friday, Oct. 12, at noon.

The ban allows for local fire departments to issue written permits that approve specific burning activities. Please work with your local fire jurisdiction and your Ecology burn team staff to get the needed written authorization for specific agricultural burns. In some areas, air quality concerns or local fire danger may preclude burning during this extraordinary wildfire event.

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Media Contact: Jani Gilbert, Communications, 509-329-3495; cell, 509-990-9177; e-mail jani.gilbert@ecy.wa.gov.

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