Air quality among worst in the world
The Methow Valley Ranger District has closed additional trails from the Harts Pass area north to the Canadian border and west to the Ross Lake National Recreation Area because of wildfires.
Smoke from these fires and others in the region settled over the Methow Valley, Chelan and Wenatchee last week, bringing what the National Weather Service in Spokane “some of the worst air quality not only in the country but the world.”
The lightning-caused fires, burning in the Pasayten Wilderness Area near the border, grew in hot, windy conditions at the end of last week, prompting the ranger district to close an additional section of the Pacific Crest Trail from Windy Pass north to the border, plus other trails in the area.
The fires are now being managed by a National Incident Management Organization Team, NIMO Team 2. The team assumed command of six fires now called the Northwest Pasayten Fires, which covered more than 16,500 acres as of Tuesday (Sept. 13), and of the Chilliwack Complex fires in North Cascades National Park. Some of the fires have spread into Canada.
The Chilliwack Complex, which had burned more than 6,000 acres as of Tuesday, comprises several active fires in the northwest portion of the park.
Okanogan County Emergency Management sent out an alert on Thursday (Sept. 8) about air quality in the unhealthy to hazardous range in the Methow. That smoke was from the Pasayten fires, but easterly winds brought smoke from Idaho and Montana to the valley over the weekend.
On Monday, despite rain and cool temperatures, air quality in the Methow was still considered unhealthy for members of sensitive groups. The weather service forecast gradual improvement in air quality this week on Tuesday and Wednesday (Sept. 13 and 14).
Cooler temperatures and rising humidity should bring periodic light mountain showers this week, which could help reduce fire activity, according to the Washington Smoke blog, a county, state, federal and tribal partnership.
People can get free protective N95 masks at the Twisp and Winthrop city halls and from Aero Methow Rescue Service during business hours.
Information about how to protect yourself from smoke particles, make an inexpensive air filter, and for links to maps with real-time air-quality readings is available at www.cleanairmethow.org.