EVERETT — A haze obscured what were supposed to be sunny blue skies on Thursday and a burnt smell permeated the air as wildfire smoke began a descent into the Puget Sound region.
According to the Washington Smoke Blog, northwest winds have started bringing in smoke from British Columbia, and at the same time, winds along the Pacific coast began dragging smoke from California fires.
A wildfire smoke alert was issued Thursday afternoon by the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency and local public health agencies, including the Snohomish Health District. The resulting air pollution raises concern for health.
It brings an end to what has been a relatively lucky summer for Western Washington residents. As fires raged elsewhere, winds had created a halo of clean air here.
The winds, it appears, are no longer favoring us. On Friday, some air monitors in Snohomish County registered air quality conditions “unhealthy for sensitive groups” in many areas of Puget Sound, including the Monroe area.
The smoke could continue to worsen when plumes from Eastern Washington might pay a brief visit — with a few spots likely seeing “unhealthy” air quality. A cold front should then clear things out over the weekend, according to forecasts.
Wildfire smoke can cause and worsen many health issues, such as asthma attacks, chest pains, coughing, headaches, irritated sinuses, stinging eyes and trouble breathing.
It could also amplify COVID-19 symptoms as both the virus and smoke affect the respiratory and cardiovascular systems.
Additionally, excessive heat warnings were in place as temperatures climbed into the 80s and, in some places, the 90s on Thursday.
A joint release from the clean air agency and public health districts offered tips for staying safe in the smoke and heat:
• Stay home when possible. If you can’t stay cool at home or are especially sensitive to smoke, it may be best to seek shelter elsewhere.
• Limit your activity outdoors, such as running, bicycling, physical labor, sports or hobbies.
• If possible, close windows in your home to keep the indoor air clean. If you have an air conditioner, use it in recirculation mode.
• Make sure your home ventilation system is maintained as recommended by the manufacturer (like replacing filters regularly).
• Don’t contribute to indoor air pollution, such as burning candles or vacuuming.
• Use a portable air cleaner, if available.
• If you do not have an air conditioner, consider finding a public place with clean, air-conditioned indoor air like a mall, public library or community center.
• Schools, camps, sports teams and day care providers should consider postponing outdoor activities or moving them indoors.
• Approved masks with the N95 or N100 label are the most effective against air pollution, though they should be used as a last resort. Cloth face coverings used to reduce the spread of COVID-19 will offer limited protection from smoke.
“People respond to smoke in different ways and at different levels,” a news release says. “Pay attention to symptoms that you or those you are caring for are experiencing and take the above steps to reduce exposures at lower smoke levels if needed. Check with your health care provider for more specific health questions and concerns. As always, seek medical attention if symptoms are serious.”
For the latest updates on air quality, visit the Washington Smoke Blog, a collaboration of federal, state, local and tribal governments, at wasmoke.blogspot.com.