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UPDATED: NWCAA air quality forecast calls for potentially unhealthy levels

WHATCOM COUNTY, Wash. — Officials with the Northwest Clean Air Agency (NWCAA) said this morning, Monday, November 14th, that redeveloping wildfires in southern British Columbia may impact air quality in Whatcom, Island and Skagit Counties.

The air quality forecast is for Good to Moderate air quality on Monday and Tuesday for most of Island, Skagit, and Whatcom counties. The Cascade foothills in Whatcom County, especially the Columbia Valley/Maple Falls area, may experience periods of elevated smoke, potentially reaching the Unhealthy range at times.

According to NWCAA, the low air quality forecast is the result of, “Unseasonably dry conditions over the last several days have led to a redevelopment of wildfires, including a complex of fires burning in southern BC. Smoke from these fires may impact portions of our area over the next few days.”

36-hour smoke forecast graphic tweeted by NW Clean Air Agency (@NWCleanAir) on November 14, 2022.

“Light easterly winds coupled with potential wood stove usage may cause periods of combined wildfire smoke and smoke from wood stoves in the Columbia Valley area, particularly during the late-evening and early-morning hours,” NWCAA said.

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As this story was being published, NWCAA announced they had just issued a Stage 2 air quality burn ban for Columbia Valley/Maple Falls area which prohibits outdoor and indoor burning until further notice. The only exception is for woodstoves when it is the only adequate source of heat.

Effective immediately, no indoor or outdoor wood burning is allowed in the Columbia Valley urban growth area (including the Peaceful Valley and Paradise Lakes developments) in Whatcom County because cold, calm air is preventing harmful wood smoke from clearing out.

Northwest Clean Air Agency (November 14, 2022)

The following prohibitions are in place during Stage 2 air quality burn bans.

  • No burning is allowed in any wood-burning fireplaces, woodstoves, or fireplace inserts (certified or uncertified), and pellet.  
  • No outdoor fires of any kind are allowed. This includes burning of yard waste, land clearing, agricultural burning, and forest burning, plus recreational fires in devices like backyard fire kettles, chimneys, and fire pits.

As of 9am today, air quality being reported from Whatcom County monitoring stations ranged from Good to the Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups range as shown below.

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