Winds that are expected to clear the air over the weekend may also stoke wildfires across the state, including two of the largest, burning thousands of acres in the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest.
A weather front moving through Western Washington is expected to bring winds that will improve air quality this weekend, but the reprieve is likely to be short-lived.
Residents are experiencing the worst air quality of the year due to wildfires raging in Central Washington, Oregon, California and British Columbia, said Andy Wineke, a Department of Ecology spokesman. It’s not yet as bad in the Puget Sound region as it was last year, when smoke from two dozen fires in British Columbia settled in at the end of July and languished for weeks. At one point the air was filled with ash that appeared to be falling like snow.
But winds that are expected to clear the air over the weekend may also stoke wildfires across the state, including two of the largest, burning thousands of acres in the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest.
A level 3 evacuation order was issued for Entiat River Road on Thursday due to the spread of the Cougar Creek Fire. The blaze has grown to more than 12,500 acres and is only 5 percent contained, according to fire officials. An inversion over the Crescent Mountain Fire on Thursday limited its growth, which has consumed nearly 14,600 acres and was listed Friday on InciWeb, a site that tracks wildfires, as being zero percent contained.
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Next week, stagnant air and potentially growing fires could bring lower air quality throughout the state.
The Washington Smoke Information blog lists most parts of Western Washington as having “good” quality air, while areas in Central and Eastern Washington near fires, particularly Chelan and Okanogan, are listed as being “unhealthy” or “unhealthy for sensitive groups.”
Wineke said people in areas with poor air quality should stay inside, turn air conditioners on, and wear N-95 dusk masks if going outside is necessary.
Symptoms of sensitivity to air pollution can include itchy, irritated eyes, sore throats and coughs even for otherwise healthy people.
“Just try to stay out of the smoky areas if you can do so,” said Wineke. “And let’s cross our fingers that the fires don’t get worse.”