Smoke likely to return to Western Washington amid Canada fires

18 August 2023

Smoke drifting from multiple fires in Canada and Eastern Washington is expected to spread across the state over the weekend, as officials warn residents the air quality could reach unhealthy levels.

Smoke from the Sourdough fire in the North Cascades hung over Seattle earlier this week before clearing out. But that likely isn’t going to last long.

A fire is raging outside of Yellowknife, the capital of Canada’s Northwest Territories, with more than 20,000 residents evacuating the city. Canada has seen a record number of wildfires this year with more than 5,700 fires burning more than 53,000 square miles. The fires have contributed to choking smoke in parts of Washington.

Meteorologists with the Washington Smoke Blog say as winds shift Saturday evening, smoke is likely to return to blanket the state. It’s likely to be very smoky in most of Central and Eastern Washington through the weekend, ranging from moderate to unhealthy conditions.

“It wasn’t a matter of if, but when smoke would hit,” Kaitlyn Kelly, an air quality policy specialist, said in a statement. “Wildfire smoke season is here in Washington, which means we need to be proactive about taking steps to protect ourselves.”

More on the air in Washington: Smoke from Sourdough fire hangs over Seattle

Air Quality Alerts were issued for dozens of counties throughout the state Friday. Some went into effect Friday and others Saturday morning. They will extend until Monday morning.

While a lot of distant wildfire smoke would tend to stay higher in the atmosphere, the fires in the Cascade Mountains are close enough that surface air quality will likely deteriorate, particularly on Sunday.

The Washington State Department of Health recommends residents take steps to prepare for the drop in air quality, particularly sensitive groups like children, the elderly or those with a preexisting medical condition.

Some steps to limit unhealthy smoke inhalation include:

Closing windows and doors unless temperatures inside get too hot.
Filtering indoor air by using an HVAC system, HEPA portable air cleaner or a do-it-yourself box fan filter.
Not adding to indoor air pollution, such as smoking or burning candles indoors.
Setting air conditioning units to recirculate.

Dry conditions have led to burn bans throughout Western Washington. That includes Skagit, Whatcom, King, Island and Snohomish counties, among others.

More on the state’s fire season: Sen. Cantwell says Washington will be ‘epicenter of severe wildfires’ in summer

The National Weather Service said the fire danger will be elevated this week due to the ongoing drought conditions, high temperatures, low relative humidity and light offshore winds.

The state Department of Ecology offers a five-day forecast map for smoke conditions in the region.

Contributing: The Associated Press

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