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GUIDE TO MONITORING WILDFIRE SMOKE AND FIRE DANGER
We want to help you keep tabs on fire danger and air quality this wildfire season. Even after a rainy June, summer began with a tally of almost 500 wildfire starts across the state—almost double from previous years—according to Washington Department of Natural Resources (DNR).
When temperatures rise and humidity drops, a tiny spark from a dragging chain, a lawnmower blade hitting a rock, or a smoldering campfire all have the potential to ignite an out-of-control fire. High winds can feed blasts of oxygen to a fire, giving it tremendous reach and causing embers to sail through the air more than a mile away to start more fires.
Wildfire smoke from fires near or far can make anyone sick. Before planning outdoor activities, check the air quality index and take precautions. Wildfire smoke can be extremely harmful to children, pregnant people, older adults, and those with asthma, COPD, and bronchitis, as well as chronic heart disease or diabetes. Now with the COVID-19 pandemic, experts are concerned that wildfire smoke may worsen symptoms for those with COVID-19. Many of those vulnerable to wildfire smoke are also vulnerable to COVID-19.
The information gathered below can help you make choices that reduce exposure to wildfire smoke and minimize fire danger.
AIR QUALITY AND BURN RESTRICTIONS. The following agencies and tools provide alerts and updates about burn restrictions and air quality. Use these links to check air quality before you exercise outside. And, always check for restrictions before you burn.
- Spokane Clean Air. Visit spokanecleanair.org for current air quality and burn restriction status, or subscribe to their newsletter for alerts. For current burn restrictions, call (509) 477-4710.
- Spokane Valley Fire Department. (That’s us!) Burn restrictions or alerts will be posted on our website, spokanevalleyfire.com. Or call (509) 928-1700 for information.
- Washington Department of Natural Resources (DNR). Check on burn restrictions for DNR-protected lands: wa.gov/burn-restrictions.
- WA Department of Health – Washington Smoke Blog. This color-coded map shows air quality reports from across the state: blogspot.com.
FIRE DANGER WARNINGS AND RATINGS.
- National Weather Service (NWS) Red Flag Warnings. These important warnings are issued when the conditions for extreme fire danger are happening or will happen in the next 24 hours. Under a Red Flag Warning, always follow instructions of local officials and prepare to take action. Red Flag Warnings are issued with weather forecasts and posted on the NWS website: https://www.weather.gov/otx/
- Learn to prepare for Red Flag Warnings and what activities may be affected (e.g., mowing the lawn). Personal responsibility and situational awareness can make all the difference. https://www.iafc.org/docs/default-source/pdf/red-flag-resource-long-.pdf
- ALERT Spokane. Spokane County offers emergency notifications via landline, cellular phone and/or Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) phones. It can also notify via text, TTD, TTY and email. Register online here: org/3007/Alert-Spokane
- Report a fire: Call
- WA Department of Health – Smoke from Fires Q&A. Get your questions answered about how to protect yourself and others from wildfire smoke. doh.wa.gov/CommunityandEnvironment/AirQuality/SmokeFromFires
- Julie Happy