Thick wildfire smoke creeping into Western Washington

Smoke from wildfires in Oregon and California has collected off the Washington coast

Smoke from wildfires in Oregon and California has collected off the Washington coast and is expected to be driven upward by southerly winds across much of western Washington, including the North Olympic Peninsula, today and Saturday.

A “super-massive” body of smoke sitting offshore started slowly stretching across southwestern Washington on Thursday, and air quality was expected to take a turn for the worse on the North Olympic Peninsula this weekend, according to the Washington Smoke Blog.

But the Olympic Peninsula may be spared from the worst conditions. Moderate air quality is predicted today across Clallam and Jefferson counties by the state Department of Ecology, while Kitsap County and the Seattle metro area are forecast to be in the unhealthy range.

“Saturday will be worse for most areas, with few clean air getaways possible,” said Ranil Dhammapala, atmospheric scientist with Ecology. “ ‘Clean air’ will become a relative term for most of this weekend.”

An Air Quality Advisory has been issued through 11 a.m. Monday for much of Western Washington, including the North Olympic Peninsula, by the National Weather Service.

“Expect conditions to be worse during the overnight hours through this period as calmer winds will allow smoke to settle,” the advisory stated.

National Weather Service forecast models show an increase in concentration of smoke moving through the area into Saturday.

“A return to onshore flow is coming (today) into Saturday, and normally, that would help clear out the smoke,” said Mary Butwin, National Weather Service meteorologist.

“But there’s so much of it offshore from the wildfires in Oregon and California that it’s a question of how will the marine air clear that out, and at what rate?

“Air quality is probably going to be, at the very least, moderate to unhealthy over Western Washington and potentially very unhealthy in select locations depending on the wind direction,” she added.

“We will see how much blows back over us when the wind shifts to the west and southwest.”

Butwin said the change to more marine air would raise humidity across the region, likely aiding fire fighting efforts.

Murdock Beach Fire

The Murdock Beach Fire, which was reported burning along the Strait of Juan de Fuca early Wednesday morning west of Joyce, remained at 5 acres Thursday, according to Janet Pearce, a spokesperson with the state Department of Natural Resources.

“The Murdock Beach Fire is still staying at 5 acres, and the good news is it is 60 percent contained,” Pearce said.

DNR crews are leading the fire response, along with Clallam County Fire District 4 personnel.

“They are lining it up and mopping up hot spots and securing lines to contain the rest of the fire,” Pearce said. “Those in the area may see more smoke from the fire today and Saturday.”

Pearce said no lives or structures are in danger from the human-caused fire.

“We do know that it was human-caused because we haven’t had any lightning strikes in the area in recent days,” Pearce said.

“All the fires in the state that have occurred since Labor Day weekend have been human-caused.

“That doesn’t mean intentionally set in every case, but could include a spark from a trailer towing a load or a power line coming down on trees and sparking a fire.”

Rayonier lands closed

Rayonier has closed all access to its forestland properties across Washington, Oregon and California until further notice. Those properties include lands owned by Rayonier, Pope Resources, Olympic Property Group and managed by Olympic Resource Management.

The closure will remain in effect until significant rainfall occurs or fire hazard conditions improve.