Smoky skies leaves air quality worse than Beijing, burn bans that include some BBQs

A smoky Seattle on Aug. 2, 2017 (Photo: KOMO News)

SEATTLE -- As the Puget Sound region continues to deal with thick smoke being blown in from wildfires burning in British Columbia, air quality readings have continued to deteriorate.

Most of Western Washington has now slipped into the "Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups" category, with even a few spots in the South Sound and over along the North Coast slipping into the general "unhealthy" category..

In the Seattle area, the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency has called for a rare summer-time Stage 1 burn ban due to air quality that affects King, Kitsap, Pierce and Snohomish Counties until further notice.

“This is about curtailing that unneeded outdoor burning that may be going on. This burn ban is about protecting public health, making sure we can all breathe and that our health is as good as we can get it for the conditions we are in,” said Phil Swartzendruber, Puget Sound Clean Air Agency.

The ban means no fire pits, campfires, bonfires nor agricultural fires.

It also means no barbecues that use charcoal or wood. (Gas grills are still OK).

It also means the Department of Ecology is urging people to be careful in these conditions.

Right now, they are urging people not to exercise outdoors in any way, including mowing the lawn. They say if you have any heart or lung issues you should stay indoors at all times. Elderly people and infants are also particularly vulnerable.

Dr. David Naimi with Northwest Asthma & Allergy says their clinic has seen a small increase in patients calling or coming in with minor elevated symptoms, like coughing or wheezing, especially those with asthma or lung disease.

“We haven’t seen a whole lot of folks come in, but I have a feeling if the air quality remains like this for a week, you might see some cumulative effect,” Dr. Naimi said.

Dr. Naimi echoed the warnings from the Department of Ecology, saying that sensitive groups are most at risk, but anyone can be effected by “unhealthy” air.

“So if the air quality is effecting that person, I’d recommend them perhaps staying indoors, taking it easy over the next day or two, until the air quality index gets to a safer level,” Dr. Naimi said.

The burn bans for air quality remain on top of the current burn bans due to dry weather and fire danger. Thursday marks Seattle's 47th consecutive day without measurable rain.

The smoke has been relentlessly pushing in from British Columbia as a ridge of high pressure has created widespread northerly flow aloft across the Pacific Northwest:

The result has been that Seattle and the Northwest's Air Quality has become worse than persistently smoggy Beijing:

(Graphics courtesy

It's also continued to make for some dramatic sunsets and sunrises:

While there may be some thinning of the smoke later Thursday, the long range forecast continues to suggest very hot and smoky conditions to persist well into next week:

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