As the wildfires consuming the states of Washington and Oregon continue to grow, concern over the safety of the air does as well. Since lightning sparked on August 11, 2017, tens of thousands of acres have been scorched, fueled by the hot, dry weather, causing detrimental amounts of pollution in the air.
According to The Seattle Times, the Diamond Creek Fire in Washington state has grown to 75,000 acres as of Monday, September 4, 2017. According to Robin Demario, a fire-information officer with Northwest Interagency Coordination Center, smoke is continuing to affect the air quality and multiple trails and roads have been shut down due to the engulfing flames. The Jolly Mountain fire has continued to grow to almost 21,000 acres. After expanding to nearly 150,000 acres, the Chetco Bar fire has begun to threaten nearby coastal towns, causing evacuations for some residents within the U.S. Forest Service boundaries.
Other smaller fires, including the Eagle Creek fire and Indian Creek fire, are posing less of a threat, however, residents are being warned to stay updated and be ready for immediate evacuation if necessary.
Both Washington and Oregon have been engulfed by a smoky haze as these wildfires continue to endlessly burn. The Seattle Times reported that due to the dangerous escalating fires, Governor Jay Inslee declared a state of emergency for all of Washington.
The heavy smoke from the wildfires is halting the efforts of firefighting. Due to the thickness of the smoke in some areas, air tankers and helicopters with water buckets were unsuccessful in attempting to extinguish any of the flames.
DeMario expressed in an interview with The Seattle Times that the one saving grace of the excess smoke is that it “created a buffer between the sun and the ground, which keeps the temperature a little cooler. It keeps the radiant heat of the sun from continuing to heat the fuels on the forest floor.”
As wildfires continue to burn and smoke continues to build, the Oregon Health Authority is urging people to take precaution and protect themselves from the pollution.
During an interview with The News Guard, a local news source in Oregon, Oregon Health Department Public Health Physician MD Ann Thomas warned that, “People should be aware of smoke levels in their area and avoid the places with highest concentrations.” People with chronic lung or heart conditions, the elderly and children should take extra caution during this time due to increased risk of health problems from the poor air quality.
The U.S. Forest Service, the Oregon Department of Forestry, Northwest Interagency Incident Management Team 6 and the Oregon State Fire Marshall's Office are working together to manage the fires.