Smoke from fires in British Columbia and Western Washington blanketed the sky over Longbranch, Wash., Thursday, Aug. 3, 2017, giving the sunrise a red hue. David Montesino dmontesino@thenewstribune.com
Smoke from fires in British Columbia and Western Washington blanketed the sky over Longbranch, Wash., Thursday, Aug. 3, 2017, giving the sunrise a red hue. David Montesino dmontesino@thenewstribune.com

Weather

Stay inside: Air in Tacoma twice as poor as Beijing thanks to wildfire smoke

August 03, 2017 04:24 PM

UPDATED August 04, 2017 07:03 PM

The smoke that has drifted into the Puget Sound region from wildfires in British Columbia has made the air quality so bad that the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department is advising everyone to stay indoors.

The state Department of Ecology has deemed the air in East Pierce County to be “very unhealthy” Thursday and the air throughout the rest of the county to be “unhealthy.”

The air quality in Tacoma is approximately twice as bad as in Beijing, as of Thursday afternoon, and it’s not expected to get better here until Saturday at the earliest.

And that’s to say nothing of the 90-plus-degree temperatures throughout the South Sound, either.

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Tacoma skyline under a hazy layer of smoke

A view of downtown Tacoma from the top of Pacific Avenue on a warm and hazy day.

Joshua Bessex jbessex@gateline.com

“The unhealthy air quality can make it difficult to breathe, even for healthy people,” environmental health specialist Judy Olsen said in a Health Department news release. “Hot weather can complicate the situation for some people, so residents should consult their doctors if they have questions,” Olsen said.

The National Weather Service has issued an excessive heat warning for much of Western Washington through Friday night, with high temperatures again expected in the 90s on Friday, with low temperatures hovering around 70 degrees.

The Health Department is advising sports teams to cancel outdoor practices and games, and is telling residents to not exercise outside, either.

A regionwide burn ban is still in effect, too, barring charcoal barbecues, firepits, campfires and field burning in Pierce, King, Kitsap and Snohomish counties. The Puget Sound Clean Air Agency will keep the ban in effect until further notice.

The poor air quality can cause heart palpitations, shortness of breath, coughing, and irritation of the eyes and sinuses, the Health Department advises.

Kenny Ocker: 253-597-8627, @KennyOcker

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