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Updated: Wildfire Smoke Drives AQI into Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups

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Monday, August 14, 2017 Update:

Southwest winds have helped ventilate the region and have brought a break from wildfire smoke (PM-2.5). Improved conditions have also reduced fire activity in many areas, however, we may see residual wildfire smoke impact our area toward the middle of the week. Air quality should remain in the Good range of the Air Quality Index on Monday but it may reach the Moderate range at times on Tuesday. 

SPOKANE, Wash.-- Smoke from wildfires burning to the north is affecting air quality in the Spokane area, prompting officials from Spokane Regional Health District (SRHD) and Spokane Regional Clean Air Agency (Spokane Clean Air) to remind residents to take precautions to protect their health.

As of this morning, the air quality monitors in Spokane are reporting levels of fine particulate matter pollution in the "Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups" or "Orange" category of the Air Quality Index (AQI). 

Spokane Clean Air's air quality forecaster says winds from the north and northeast are transporting wildfire smoke to our area from the various regional wildfires. A strong high pressure ridge will remain over the region well into next week, bringing generally light winds and continued high temperatures and abundant smoke-filtered sunshine. Air quality will worsen at night as smoke concentrates in valleys and improve slightly in the afternoon with increased wind speeds and mixing of the atmosphere.

The smoke is likely to remain with us into next week. Clearing the smoke from the region will require a change in the weather pattern with winds from the west or southwest. Such a change is not expected for at least the next several days.

"Depending on the wind and wildfire activity, the Air Quality Index may fluctuate between Moderate (yellow) and Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups (orange) today and Thursday," according to Stephanie May, public information specialist for Spokane Clean Air.

Smoke is a mix of gases and fine particles. Breathing smoke can make anyone sick. Even someone who is healthy can get sick if there is enough smoke in the air.

Breathing in smoke can have immediate health effects, including:

It is important individuals limit their exposure to smoke - especially if they are susceptible.

"Smoke from wildfires is especially harmful for those with health conditions like asthma. We recommend that people who are sensitive to poor air quality follow their breathing management plans, keep medications on hand and contact their health provider if necessary," said Dr. Bob Lutz, SRHD health officer.

Children also are more susceptible to smoke because their respiratory systems are still developing. Kids breathe more air (and air pollution) per pound of body weight than adults, and they are more likely to be active outdoors.

Here are some additional steps people can take to protect themselves:

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