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As smoke blankets Northwest, National Weather Service says Washington air quality worst in the country

The spires of St. Aloysius Church are surrounded by smoke from nearby fires in Spokane on Wednesday, August 8, 2018. (Kathy Plonka / The Spokesman-Review)
The spires of St. Aloysius Church are surrounded by smoke from nearby fires in Spokane on Wednesday, August 8, 2018. (Kathy Plonka / The Spokesman-Review)

The air quality in Spokane and across the Northwest teetered between unhealthy and moderate most of Wednesday as smoke from local and Canadian wildfires blanketed the region.

The National Weather Service’s Seattle branch tweeted early Wednesday afternoon that Washington had the worst air quality in the country, posting a graphic that showed most of the state had air quality levels at either dangerous for sensitive groups or unhealthy for everyone.

The Spokane Regional Clean Air Agency predicts that the air will remain unhealthy today due to the hot weather, wildfires and wind, but conditions could improve.

In Chelan and Wenatchee, the air quality Wednesday reached hazardous levels, prompting Chelan County officials to distribute masks.

The Puget Sound Clean Air Agency said smoke in Seattle and nearby areas had reached levels that were unhealthy for everyone.

The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality also said Wednesday the air quality in Portland and Medford was unhealthy.

The weather service said there was a chance of cleaner air pushing onshore in the western part of Washington and Oregon overnight Wednesday.

Jeff Cote, a meteorologist at the Spokane National Weather Service Office, said smoke in the Spokane area had drifted from large fires in British Columbia, Chelan and Okanogan counties. The Spokane NWS office posted an air quality alert in tandem with the EPA, which will remain in effect until Friday morning.

Cote said conditions could improve before then, depending on wind, but thunder and lightning storms predicted later in the week could lead to more fires.

“We’re still in the thick of wildfire season,” he said.

A fire sparked near Chattaroy on Wednesday afternoon, burning 5 to 7 acres. Fire District 4 spokeswoman Megan Hill said crews were able to get a line around the blaze in a few hours, thanks to calm winds, air support and a fast response time.

She said several homes were threatened by the fire, but no structures were lost and no one was injured. She said the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office responded to the fire in case of evacuations, but they weren’t necessary. Washington Department of Natural Resources responded to the fire, bringing inmate crews and Fire District 9 brought a bulldozer, she said.

The cause of the fire is still under investigation.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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