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Wednesday, February 26, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Spokane

Wildfire smoke brings unhealthy air across Northwest

The Spokesman-Review

An air quality alert issued Monday is expected to remain in effect across a broad swath of the Pacific Northwest until at least Thursday because of wildfire smoke pollution.

“Air quality is currently in the unhealthy category and is forecast to continue to range from unhealthy to hazardous in the next few days,” the National Weather Service in Spokane said in a statement.

At the same time, forecasters warned that a new weather system on Thursday evening through Saturday morning could bring more lightning strikes and gusty southwest wind to fan flames. It is unclear how much rain may fall from the storm.

The air alert covers an area from the Cascade crest in Washington and Oregon eastward into Idaho and northwest Montana.

In Spokane, air quality early Monday was in the category of unhealthy for people with health issues such as asthma. By 11:20 a.m., air quality improved to the moderate category. There were more fluctuations throughout the day, with air quality worsening again somewhat shortly after 5 p.m.

Last Friday, following fires and a dust storm, air quality in Spokane was deemed unhealthy for everyone. It improved on Saturday and Sunday but began to deteriorate late Sunday afternoon, according to monitors.

Wood smoke is made up of very small particles that can be trapped deep within the lungs. Paper dust masks offer no protection since smoke particles can pass between the fibers.

People are advised not to exercise and to curtail time outdoors during periods of hazardous air quality.

Officials said that as winds die down, the concentration of smoke goes up. Temperature inversions at night typically help to concentrate smoke so that morning hours are more hazardous than afternoon, depending on winds.

If it smells smoky, it’s probably best to refrain from activity outdoors that raises the heart rate.

Symptoms that arise from smoke pollution are coughing, trouble breathing, stinging eyes, scratchy throat, runny nose, irritated sinuses, chest pain, headache, asthma, tiredness and fast heart beat.

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