Large western fires hurt local air quality

SPOKANE, Wash.– Wildfire smoke is affecting air quality again around the Inland Northwest. Air quality in Spokane hovered in the “unhealthy for sensitive groups” air quality level for much of Thursday.

Spokane Air Quality Sept 5 2021

wildfires and smoke 992021

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Cool temperatures held smoke at bay during the last week of August, but warmer weather and winds out of the south-southwest helped amp up fires in Washington starting last Saturday.  Winds also brought in smoke from fires burning in Oregon and northern California. Active wildfires sending smoke over Eastern Washington and North Idaho on Thursday have burned a combined 1.25 million acres. That’s more acreage than the state of Rhode Island, four times the size of Seattle, 29 times the size of Spokane, and 117 times the size of Coeur d’Alene.

acres burned for fires 992021

acres burned by wildfires sending smoke into the Inland Northwest: 9/9/2021. Copyright 4 News Now

Rain is in the forecast on Friday, but many of the fire zones will be missing out on the beneficial moisture. Rain will mostly fall in Central Oregon, Eastern Washington, and North Idaho. The effect known as downsloping will keep the rain away from many of the biggest fires burning in the Cascade Range in all three states. This happens when the air dries out as it comes down the backside of mountain ranges.

downslope winds illustration

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Higher humidity thanks to this storm system should help lower smoke production and air quality this weekend. However, without substantial moisture, these fires will continue to burn and will flare up every time it gets warm. Lucky for us, next week will see winds mostly out of the west, which should keep smoke from the California and Oregon fires away from our skies.

You can check the air quality in Spokane here.

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