Wildfire smoke causing air quality to drop in some parts of Whatcom County and beyond

Fires in British Columbia and elsewhere are causing air quality to decline in Whatcom County, especially for people with breathing difficulties and conditions such as asthma.

Poor air quality from wildfires in eastern Canada is not as bad in the Pacific Northwest as it is in the eastern United States, but it is being watched closely, officials said.

Most of western Whatcom County was showing good air quality on Thursday morning, as measured by Northwest Clean Air Agency sensors.

But air north of Bellingham, near Custer and Lynden, was listed as moderate on Wednesday because of particulates in wildfire smoke from Vancouver Island.

“Air quality is expected to be good to moderate (Thursday) in Island, Skagit and Whatcom counties,” the air agency said on its social media.

Smoke from wildfires in British Columbia and elsewhere in the Wet drifts across Whatcom County, cause air quality to decline on Wednesday.
Smoke from wildfires in British Columbia and elsewhere in the Wet drifts across Whatcom County, cause air quality to decline on Wednesday.

Air in Abbotsford, B.C., just north of Lynden, was listed as unhealthy for everyone on Wednesday, according to the Washington Smoke Blog.

An animated forecast map from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration showed low-level smoke drifting over Northwest Washington, including Whatcom County.

Maps from FireSmoke Canada showed high-level smoke from other Canadian fires, but it wasn’t likely to affect air quality near the ground.

“Predominantly southerly winds have helped to reduce smoke impacts from fires burning near Vancouver. Winds are expected to remain southerly for the next few days and should prevent significant smoke impacts during that period,” the Northwest Clean Air Agency said.

“Primary smoke impacts today will include the Vancouver metro area and locations just north of the U.S.-Canada border. Our area should be mainly smoke-free,” the agency said.

This year’s first low-level smoke arrives as Whatcom County officials were set to declare a burn ban amid forecasts for continued hot and dry conditions through summer.

Several dozen wildfires have been reported already this season in Whatcom County alone.

Canadian wildfires are blanketing the northeastern U.S. in a murky haze, turning the air acrid, the sky yellowish gray and prompting warnings for vulnerable populations to stay inside.

The effects of hundreds of wildfires burning across the western provinces to Quebec were felt in New York City, Philadelphia and across New England, blotting out skylines and irritating throats. Outdoor activities were canceled Wednesday, including several MLB games.

U.S. authorities issued air quality alerts. Hazy conditions and smoke from the wildfires were reported across the Great Lakes region from Cleveland to Buffalo.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.