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Wildfire smoke in Seattle: How bad is it and how long will it last?

Another August, another haze

The Space Needle, a construction crane, and some buildings underneath a smoky backdrop, with a red sun. Shutterstock

Once again, August has rolled in—and Seattle is seeing smoke. Diminished air quality started Monday, and dipped slightly on Tuesday with a more visible, distinct haze. That’s coming from eastern Washington, where wildfire season is really gearing up.

Washington Smoke Blog, a information-distribution project of local, state, and federal agencies along with Indian tribes, notes that what we’re seeing in Seattle is all from “distant sources” and isn’t hitting Western Washington too hard yet. Still, here’s the deal.

How bad is the smoke?

While any smoke is not ideal, currently it’s not the worst—certainly not what we’ve seen the last couple of years, at least not yet.

As of Tuesday afternoon, the Washington State Department of Ecology (DOE)’s monitoring stations are showing the air quality in Seattle as a mix of “moderate” and “good,” but with more monitoring sites than not showing perfectly healthy air. The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) shows the Seattle area’s air quality as “moderate,” with just a slight decrease in air quality from Monday.

The Smoke Blog sums it up as “a wee bit of fine particle pollution.”

How long will the smoke last? What’s the smoke forecast?

The haze could stick around until Wednesday evening, according to the Smoke Blog. The EPA forecasts good air quality on Wednesday.

What does that mean for me?

According to the DOE, “moderate” conditions mean that “people with health conditions should limit spending any time outdoors and avoid strenuous outdoor activities. They may begin to have worsened symptoms.”

With “good” air, you’re in the clear.

If you’re getting some symptoms, though, the Washington State Department of Health (DOH) has even more detailed recommendations of how to proceed. The DOH also has a guide to picking out a mask that will filter out harmful particles.

Is there a burn ban?

There’s no air quality burn ban in effect in King, Pierce, Snohomish, Kitsap, or Snohomish county as of Tuesday afternoon. King County does, however, have a fire safety burn ban in place.

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