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Air quality burn ban set for the weekend for Whatcom and other counties

The Sun is visible behind clouds amidst heavy wildfire smoke (September 16, 2020). Photo: Whatcom News

WHATCOM COUNTY, Wash. — Officials with the Northwest Clean Air Agency announced today, Friday, August 18th, that a Stage 2 air quality burn ban will go into effect at 9am tomorrow for Whatcom, Skagit and Island counties. High levels of harmful wildfire smoke are forecast to severely impact local air quality for the next few days. The ban is expected to continue through Monday, if not later.

No outdoor burning is allowed, including residential and agricultural burning, during a Stage 2 air quality burn ban. Home heating with fireplaces and uncertified wood stoves is also prohibited. This ban includes recreational fires like campfires and fire pits.

This air quality burn ban is separate from, and in addition to, fire safety burn bans already in effect because of increased fire danger in the three counties. Northwest Clean Air Agency (August 18, 2023)

Recently a westerly wind pattern has been blowing wildfire smoke to the east and keeping it out of Western Washington.  However, winds will shift overnight tonight to easterly – funneling smoke from fires in the Cascades and southern British Columbia into the Puget Sound region.  All of Western Washington may be impacted – with the possible exception of the Olympics/coast.

Forecasted Unhealthy air quality for 5am Sunday. Source: WA Smoke Blog

The air quality index is expected to reach Moderate or Unhealthy For Sensitive Groups on Saturday, increasing throughout the day.  Northern counties will be affected first as smoke travels southward.  Continued smoke movement on Sunday could lead to Unhealthy or worse air quality.  Light westerly winds on Monday and stronger westerly winds on Tuesday should help clear out the smoke.

An Air Quality Alert is being issued for the following Western WA counties, beginning Saturday at 9am and continuing through Monday at noon: Clallam, Island, Jefferson, King, Kitsap, Lewis, Mason, Pierce, San Juan, Skagit, Snohomish, Thurston, and Whatcom. While air quality in Central and Eastern Washington has improved today, northerly winds this afternoon will lead to declining air quality conditions that will continue through the weekend. Air quality alerts remain in place until Monday morning. WA Smoke Blog (August 18, 2023)

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