A weather map shows near-surface smoke from Washington state fires being blown westward over the Olympic Peninsula. Map courtesy of Clallam County Fire District 3

A weather map shows near-surface smoke from Washington state fires being blown westward over the Olympic Peninsula. Map courtesy of Clallam County Fire District 3

Smoke, haze on peninsula from state wildfires

Smoke from several fires across Washington state moved in to the Olympic Peninsula overnight

Smoke from several fires across Washington state moved in to the Olympic Peninsula overnight, Clallam County Fire District 3 officials said.

“We have received several 911 calls and multiple phone calls to the station regarding a smell of smoke,” the fire district noted in a statement earlier this week.

“We understand that the smoke is unpleasant and a health concern for some. However, unless you can provide an actual location of a known fire, our crews are not likely to be able to take any action.”

Clallam County Fire Marshal George Bailey said that because of atmospheric conditions of reduced moisture levels, low humidity and warmer weather, combined with the reduced availability of fire-fighting resources, the Clallam County Burn Ban is being modified to a “high” fire danger.

Camp fires a maximum of 3 feet in diameter and 2 feet in height are still allowed, Bailey noted; however, they must be contained within a concrete or metal fire pit located in an approved campground or on private property with the property owner’s permission.

The exceptions to this modification are those campgrounds within the Olympic National Park and Olympic National Forest which are not regulated by the county.

Those who see a fire other than recreational fire, are urged to report them, Fire District 3 officials noted.

“Regional wildfire resources are at minimum levels,” they said. “Please be very careful with any activities that may cause a fire.”

Washington State Parks officials announced at 2:30 p.m. Tuesday that it is banning wood and charcoal fires at its parks statewide and on ocean beaches.

“The campfire ban is in response to hot, dry and windy weather conditions and numerous wildfires that have affected much of the state in the past few days,” State Parks officials said. “The ban will continue at least through Sept. 15, giving staff time to assess the situation over the upcoming weekend.”

See parks.state.wa.us/1186/24685/Parks-burn-bans for updates.

Advice from county, state health officials

Officials from the Clallam County Department of Health and Human Services offered advice regarding the recent wildfire smoke from Eastern Washington that is in the area.

“Wildfire smoke can be unhealthy to breathe, especially for vulnerable people such as those with existing heart or lung disease, children, older adults and pregnant women,” officials said.

“Some of these groups are also those most at risk for COVID-19. Persons with, or recovering from, COVID-19 may be more at risk for negative health effects from wildfire smoke exposure because of compromised lung and heart function.”

County officials ask that people seek medical attention when experiencing severe symptoms such as chest pain or difficulty breathing, during wildfire smoke events. Those with a fever, cough or shortness of breath are asked to treat it like it could be COVID- 19 and to protect others by staying home.

People concerned about their health are encouraged to call their health care provider to discuss COVID-19 testing and other possible reasons for the illness.

They ask people pay attention to how the smoke is making them feel and check with a doctor right away for help managing symptoms or any specific concerns.

The Washington State Department of Health offers detailed information on how residents can best deal with smoke impacts on their homes and communities, “Smoke From Fires : Washington State Department of Health.” Additional information on wildfires and the latest information, monitoring and forecasting is available at wasmoke.blogspot.com.

Stay indoors and keep indoor air clean

When the air quality is poor from wildfire smoke, reduce outdoor physical activity. As the air quality worsens you will need to go indoors and take additional steps to keep smoke out of your home to improve indoor air quality. Additional COVID-19 Guidance: With additional limitations this year, this will be the best way to protect yourself from exposure to wildfire smoke.

Reduce intake of smoke into your home

To keep indoor air clean and wildfire smoke from entering your home:

• Close windows and doors when it is smoky outside. Track the air quality and open your windows for fresh air when the air quality improves.

• Pay attention to heat and take steps to keep it cool indoors by closing curtains during daylight, using an air conditioner or fans. If it’s still too hot, open windows to avoid heat exhaustion and other heat illnesses.

• Set air conditioners on recirculate to prevent intake of outside air.

• Turn off fans that vent to the outside, like the one in your bathroom. Exhaust fans pull outside air in through cracks around windows and doors.

Additional COVID-19 guidance: Opening your windows for fresh air when the air quality improves will also help reduce the viral load of SARS CoV-2 in the air, but this alone is not enough to protect you from COVID-19. Continue with best practices for COVID-19.

Avoid activities that create indoor air pollution

Do not add to indoor air pollution during wildfire smoke events. Avoid the following activities: burning candles or incense, smoking cigarettes, broiling or frying food and vacuuming (unless your vacuum has a HEPA filter).

Improve indoor air filtration There are three ways to improve indoor air filtration of smoke particles in your home: 1) increase heating, ventilation, and/or air conditioning (HVAC) filtration, 2) use a portable air cleaner with HEPA filter, and 3) use a DIY box fan filter. There are different considerations with each of these options:

1. Increase HVAC filtration

Filtration of air in your home will improve the air quality inside your home during wildfire smoke events. The HVAC system is the best way to reduce fine particles (PM2.5) from wildfire smoke throughout your home, rather than only a single room.

2. Use a portable air cleaner with a HEPA filter

Improving filtration of air in your home will improve your indoor air quality during wildfire smoke events. Using a portable air cleaner with a HEPA filter can reduce fine particles (PM2.5) from wildfire smoke in a single room.

3. Use a DIY box fan filter

Improving filtration of air in your home will improve your indoor air quality during wildfire smoke events. Making your own box fan filters can be a less expensive option to reduce fine particles (PM2.5) from wildfire smoke in a single room. When building your own box fan filter it is important to understand their limitations and the potential risks.

For about $40-$50 you can build an air filter by attaching a 20-inch-by-20-inch furnace filter to a 20-inch box fan (don’t run this unattended or at night). See instructions DIY Air Filter (pscleanair.gov/525/DIY-Air-Filter).

Seeking cleaner and cooler air elsewhere

Going to clean air shelters and public clean air spaces or a friend’s or relative’s place with a dedicated clean air space and air conditioning can provide relief from wildfire smoke and heat when you cannot keep your indoor air clean or you cannot keep your house cool.

Additional COVID-19 Guidance: It might not be safe for people to go to public spaces to seek cleaner and cooler indoor air away from home this year due to COVID-19. With the congregation of people at these settings, there is a risk of transmission of SARS CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

Check in advance to see if these places are open and be prepared for lower capacity, to physically distance, and wear a cloth face covering.

If you decide to leave the area and visit friends or relatives, consider COVID-19 restrictions in the county you are traveling to and with the people you are visiting. Please follow current guidance for indoor gathering size etc.

Face masks are not typically recommended as the best option to the general public to reduce exposure to wildfire smoke, as it is better to stay indoors and keep indoor air clean. While N95 and other NIOSH approved respirators are in short supply due to COVID-19, they need to be reserved for those required to wear them for work.

Cloth face coverings generally do not provide much protection from breathing in wildfire smoke. However, it is important to continue to wear cloth face coverings to slow the spread of SARS-Cov-2 and reduce the risk of COVID-19.

For more information, contact Environmental Health Director Jennifer Garcelon at jgarcelon@co.clallam.wa.us or 360-417-2347.

Contributor Bob Lampert caught this image of haze over the Sequim-Dungeness area on Sept. 8.

Contributor Bob Lampert caught this image of haze over the Sequim-Dungeness area on Sept. 8.

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