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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
News >  Crime/Public Safety

Canadian wildfires bring unhealthy smoke to Spokane region

May 18, 2023 Updated Thu., May 18, 2023 at 8:59 p.m.

Haze is pictured from the National Weather Service's Spokane office this week.   (National Weather Service Spokane)
Haze is pictured from the National Weather Service's Spokane office this week.  (National Weather Service Spokane)

Smoke from Canadian wildfires lingered in the Spokane region Thursday, triggering an air quality alert not often issued this early in the year.

“Typically, those aren’t put out until we get into our fire season,” said Jeremy Wolf, meteorologist at the National Weather Service Spokane.

The air quality index reached “Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups” Thursday in Spokane County, the earliest in the year the index reached that group because of wildfire smoke since at least 1999, according to the Spokane Regional Clean Air Agency.

The index was 85, or in the moderate range, Thursday night.

The Washington Department of Ecology announced an air quality alert, effective through Saturday morning, for Okanogan, Ferry, Stevens, Pend Oreille, Lincoln, Spokane, Adams and Whitman counties because of the smoke from Canada. Air quality levels may reach “Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups” during that time.

In that range, sensitive people should limit prolonged or heavy exertion and time outdoors.

Wolf said there are numerous fires burning in the Canadian provinces of Alberta, Saskatchewan and British Columbia. Winds pushed that smoke south, impacting the Northwest and Midwest.

An expected increase in southwest winds this weekend should clear the smoke out of the area, according to Wolf.

He said winds will slightly increase Saturday and pick up more Sunday, with speeds of 10 to 20 mph and gusts as high as 30 in the Spokane area.

High temperatures are expected to be in the 80s this weekend before cooling down to the 70s next week, according to the weather service.

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