How clear of wildfire smoke do the skies above Western Washington need to be before people can safely open the doors and windows of their homes to welcome in the fresh air?

The first thing to do is to check the air quality. A good place to start after looking out the window is the state Department of Ecology’s air monitoring network map, which shows air quality across the state.

Once the air quality improves to be “moderate” or “good” the state Department of Health’s air quality program staff suggests:

  • Windows should be opened for at least 15 minutes.
  • Clean hard surfaces with plain soap and water, dust with a dry or damp microfiber cloth and try and use a vacuum with a HEPA filter. Vacuuming without one can send dust into the air.
  • Outdoor exercise should only happen once the air quality becomes “moderate” and “good.” People with health conditions should limit their time outside when the air is in the “moderate” range. Clark County Public Health has a handy chart showing the various air conditions and when it is safe to do things outdoors.

The air quality Friday afternoon for most of the Puget Sound region is considered “unhealthy,” according to the Department of Ecology, which is an improvement from earlier in the week.

On Tuesday the air quality was listed as “hazardous,” which is the most dangerous level used by the Department of Ecology. By Wednesday the air moved into the “very unhealthy” category.

The skies are expected to keep improving as a weather system pushes in from the coast, bringing showers to the region, said Dustin Guy, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Seattle.

“That precipitation will contribute to improving air quality,” he said.

Conditions have improved along the coast where the air quality is listed as “good.” The air quality continues to be in the “unhealthy” and “very unhealthy” range in Eastern and Central Washington.