(The Center Square) – The Washington State Department of Health and the Department of Ecology have sent out mailers to warn Washington state residents of an impending drop in air quality, and what the fallout means for those spending time outdoors this weekend.
“More than half our state is breathing in unhealthy air because of wildfires in Washington and Canada,” said a Friday news release issued by the Health Department.
It highlights 13 separate entries on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s “Watches, Warnings, and Advisories” page for Washington, all of which started Friday.
“It wasn’t a matter of if, but when smoke would hit,” said Department of Health Air Quality Policy Specialist Kaitlyn Kelly in a statement. “Wildfire smoke season is here in Washington, which means we need to be proactive about taking steps to protect ourselves.”
The Department of Health urges people to stay indoors and maintain high air quality by taking the following precautions:
- Closing windows and doors unless temperatures inside get too hot
- Filtering indoor air by using an HVAC system, HEPA portable air cleaner, or DIY box fan filter
- Not adding to indoor air pollution by smoking or burning candles indoors
- Setting air conditioning units to recirculate
The Department of Ecology also issued a warning containing burn prohibitions for Whatcom, Skagit and Island counties.
Coming by way of the Northwest Clean Air Agency, the ban will take effect at 9 a.m. on Saturday.
“No outdoor burning is allowed, including residential and agricultural burning, during a Stage 2 air quality burn ban. Home heating with fireplaces and uncertified wood stoves is also prohibited. This ban includes recreational fires like campfires and fire pits. This air quality burn ban is separate from, and in addition to, fire safety burn bans already in effect because of increased fire danger in the three counties,” the announcement reads.
“The Northwest Clean Air Agency is calling an air quality burn ban in addition to the existing fire safety burn bans to further reduce smoke in our area and protect public health,” said Executive Director of the Northwest Clean Air Agency Mark Buford. “Once the air has cleared, we will remove the air quality burn ban. But the fire safety burn bans will remain in place until fire officials determine that fire danger has passed.”
Currently, there is no definite end time on this burn ban and the release warns that “ban violators could face fines and other enforcement actions.”
Washington residents can track air quality state wide on the Department of Ecology’s Air Quality Program website.
More information for those with pre-existing conditions, those who fear they’ve been exposed to excess smoke inhalation, or those wishing to learn more about wildfire season can be found at the “Smoke From Fires” section of the Department of Health’s website.