Where there is fire, there is smoke


Last updated 8/4/2021 at 7:10am

Smoke from wildfires chokes Midway Avenue Monday when local air quality reached unhealthy levels. - Scott Hunter photo

"If you smell smoke, you're breathing smoke," a smoke outlook report from fires.airfire.org says.

Today, Wednesday, Grand Coulee is projected to have air that is "unhealthy for sensitive groups," according to the report, and those sensitive groups should avoid physical activity outdoors.

Fires producing smoke in the air include the Summit Trail Fire near Inchelium, which on Tuesday morning was at 22,305 acres and 15% contained; and the Cheweah Fire, which is holding at 36,752 acres and is 90% contained.

Near Winthrop, the Cub Creek 2 Fire is at 58,793 acres and 24% containment, and the Cedar Creek Fire is at 50,406 acres and 23% containment.

On Tuesday, "air quality registered in the Unhealthy to Hazardous ranges across the Outlook Area," the website says. "Northwest winds overnight helped move smoke around a bit. This morning, air quality is registering Unhealthy across the Outlook Area with the exception of Inchelium, registering Very Unhealthy. Southwest winds are expected to push smoke enough to result in improvement in air quality. However, with increased fire activity comes more smoke. Southwest winds today and overnight should keep smoke from lingering."

An interactive map at https://www2.purpleair.com/ will let you see the current air quality of your area.

How to put up with smoke

Suggestions from the state Department of Health to minimize smoke exposure include:

• Check local air quality reports and listen to news or health warnings for your community.

• Avoid physical exertion outdoors if smoke is in the air.

• If you have asthma or other lung diseases, make sure you follow your doctor's directions about taking your medicines and follow your asthma management plan. Call your healthcare provider if your symptoms worsen.

• Stay indoors and keep indoor air as clean as possible. Take the following steps when indoors: 

• Keep windows and doors closed. If there is no air conditioning and it is too hot to keep windows and doors closed, consider leaving the area.

• Run an air conditioner (if you have one), set it to re-circulate and close the fresh-air intake. Make sure to change the filter regularly.

A short video gives instructions for making a simple, but effective, air filter for wildfire smoke, which carries small particles harmful that can be harmful to lungs.

• Use a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter to reduce indoor air pollution. A HEPA filter may reduce the number of irritating fine particles in indoor air. A HEPA filter with charcoal will help remove some of the gases from the smoke.

• Don't add to indoor pollution. Don't use candles, fireplaces, or gas stoves. Don't vacuum, because vacuuming stirs up particles already inside your home. Don't smoke, because smoking puts even more pollution into the air.

More information is available online at the Department of Health's website at http://www.doh.wa.gov, and many other websites.

You can make your own box fan air filter with help from this one-minute state Department of Ecology video, viewable with this story online at grandcoulee.com or at https://youtu.be/4qr1Aj6Di7w .


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