There's smoke but don't blame the (California) fires

The news headlines in recent weeks have been filled with stories about the devastating wildfires in California. Have those fires also filled the skies over Washington with smoke?

Well, yes and no. But mostly no.

With air quality in Western Washington dipping down this week to levels that may be unhealthy for sensitive groups, it's natural to wonder where the particulate pollution is coming from. Given the massive fires to the south, some people are asking if that's the source of air quality problems.

satellite image showing smoke over western Washington

For the record, the California wildfires are indeed exporting some smoke over Western Washington, as can be seen in the satellite image above. However, most of the pollution recorded on our monitors is likely from wood smoke coming from wood stoves and fires right here at home.

monitoring map showing air quality is poor around puget sound and much of eastern washington

Stagnant air is trapping pollutants close to the ground, and this pattern is expected to last through Wednesday. California smoke will also linger around until then, but most of that will remain aloft.

The only way we’re going to maintain good air quality in our neighborhoods during this time is by limiting wood stove use and refraining from outdoor burning.

Meanwhile, in Eastern Washington, stagnant air prompted Ecology to place burn bans over much of the region starting last week. Ventilation is predicted to improve temporarily, as snow is expected during Thanksgiving. That is allowing us to let the burn bans expire in Klickitat, Ferry, Pend Oreille and Stevens counties at 10 a.m. Thursday, Nov. 22.

However, stagnant air will return to North Central Washington for the weekend, forcing us to keep burn bans in place in Chelan, Douglas, Kittitas and Okanogan counties  until further notice.

Whatever part of Washington you live in, check for burn bans before you light a fire: