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Prepare now for likely return of wildfire smoke this summer.

Remember last summer? We had stretches where it was not just hazy; the air was downright murky and smelled of smoke. This year’s forecast threatens to be the same. The risk of wildfires across the state and region is higher than normal. And we learned in recent years that fires in Eastern Washington, Oregon, California, and British Columbia can affect us as well.

During Smoke Ready Week (June 14-18), we encourage you to have a plan to protect your family’s health against the new normal for our summers.

Summer gets longer, hotter, and smokier.

Climate change means we will have longer and warmer summers. Coupled with reduced rainfall and snowmelt, that means more frequent and severe wildfires. A recent article reported that Washington is already experiencing “the highest number of year-to-date fires in our history” with 410 fires on state lands.

Our Outdoor Air Quality Program has been hard at work preparing for wildfire smoke events this year. Traditionally, we respond to poor air quality in the winter months. That changed in 2017, the first year we also had to respond to summer wildfire smoke.

Last summer, COVID-19 complicated our response to wildfire smoke events. Smoke contains tiny particles that are bad for your lungs, heart, sinuses, and other parts of your body. The effects can be worse for people with medical conditions like asthma. Smoke harms those struggling with COVID-19 infections. And distancing and other COVID-19 precautions made it more challenging to provide clean air options during wildfire smoke events.

Our staff navigated new territory to develop guidance that combined health considerations for the pandemic and smoke. We continue to support schools, clean air shelters, and other partners.

Our Outdoor Air Quality Program is coordinating with partners who monitor drought conditions, moisture levels in fuels, weather forecasts, and more. We want to be ready with the most up-to-date information to help you make the best choices to stay safe. Our work includes:

  • Performing and providing technical assistance for indoor and outdoor air quality monitoring.
  • Coordinating with local and state partners.
  • Distributing and providing instructions for box fan and high efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters to clean indoor air.
  • Promoting new ventilation (HVAC) recommendations that protect against COVID-19 and wildfire smoke.

Prepare before the smoke arrives.

Although we hope this wildfire season is mild, we must prepare for the likely return of smoky air and poor air quality. Just like you would check the weather forecast before deciding to bring an umbrella or sunglasses, you can check air quality to prepare and protect yourself from smoky air. You can also:

 

Hazy skies have become an unfortunate and unhealthy part of our summers. But a plan and the right information can help clear the way for you and your family to stay healthy and safe.

Find an air quality table, infographic, and other resources at tpchd.org/wildfiresmoke.

 

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