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City of Seattle Joins State Department of Natural Resources, Puget Sound Clean Air Agency, Seattle / King County Public Health and Over 12 Other Regional Agencies to Mark Smoke Ready Communities Day

SEATTLE (June 19, 2019) – In an effort spearheaded by the City of Seattle, counties across the Puget Sound region are helping to prepare their communities for poor air quality from wildfires by declaring June 19 “Smoke Ready Communities Day.” The City of Seattle and Mayor Jenny Durkan also hosted a resource fair at the Rainier Beach Community Center on Wednesday, June 19th to help residents learn more about how their families can be smoke ready.  

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Smoke Ready Communities Day represents a combined effort of Pierce, King, Kitsap, and Snohomish Counties; Mayors of cities in all four counties including Seattle, Tacoma, and Everett; Emergency Management departments across the four counties, Departments of Health and Health Districts in Seattle/King, Tacoma Pierce, Kitsap, and Snohomish Counties, and Washington Department of Health, the Washington Department of Natural Resources and Puget Sound Clean Air Agency. 

In preparation for a potentially difficult smoke season, the City of Seattle has made updates to HVAC and filtration systems at the International District Community Center and Rainier Beach Community Center, as well as the Seattle Center Armory and Expo Hall on the Seattle Center campus. These upgrades will provide cleaner and cooler spaces for Seattle’s most vulnerable populations during periods of potentially extreme poor air quality. 

“With Smoke Ready Communities Day, we are ensuring that communities all over our region are equipped with the information and resources they need to keep themselves and their families healthy during periods of poor air quality in our region,” said Mayor Durkan. “Our city is taking additional steps so that our residents have access to public facilities with clean air and the tools and information to protect themselves and their families.”   

Smoke from wildfires has become a recurring seasonal air quality hazard in the western United States and British Columbia. In the Puget Sound region in 2018, wildfire smoke led to 24 days of poor air quality, including nine days that were considered either unhealthy for sensitive groups or unhealthy for everyone.   

“During certain times last year, Washington state had the worst air quality in the world due to wildfires across the region,” said Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz. “As residents plan ways enjoy our beautiful outdoors and recreation opportunities across the Puget Sound region, we hope everyone takes care to take note of the air quality, particularly as we head into peak wildfire season, to avoid the risks associated with smoke-filled air.”  

“As a result of climate change, we should expect more frequent and larger wildfires during Pacific Northwest summers” said Dr. Jeff Duchin, Health Officer for Public Health – Seattle & King County. “Monitor air quality daily during fires and stay indoors and avoid outdoor activity as much as possible when the air quality is unhealthy. Children, older adults, pregnant women and people with underlying cardiovascular disease and lung disease including asthma are more susceptible to smoke. Talk to your healthcare provider and make a plan for how to decrease your risk on smoky days.” 

“People in the Northwest love our summers but we now face a hard reality. That climate change is going to steal parts of that summer from us more often as temperatures rise and forests dry out sooner in the spring. We encourage everyone to take steps now to prepare for wildfire season, by knowing where the nearest cooling center is located, having a plan for helping vulnerable family and friends and monitoring air quality at” said Craig Kenworthy, Executive Director, Puget Sound Clean Air Agency.  

Washington State has experienced over 300 fires so far in 2019, with half of them occurring in Western Washington. Based on current drought and forest conditions, the Washington State Department of Natural Resources believes we may see a record number of wildfires in 2019.    

Annual preparations for wildfire smoke impacts can help Puget Sound residents mitigate the effect of wildfire smoke on their health and daily routines. These steps include talking to their health care provider about their health risk, taking steps to keep their indoor air cleaner, sharing existing cleaner air spaces in their homes with neighbors, and limiting outdoor activity when air quality is poor. 

From the Washington State Department of Health: What can I do to protect myself and my family from outdoor smoke?  

  • Check local air quality reports and listen to news or health warnings for your community. 
  • Avoid physical exertion outdoors if smoke is in the air.  
  • Only use an N-95 or N-100 mask after trying more effective methods to avoid smoke, like staying indoors and reducing outdoor activity – masks don’t work for everyone, including children, people with facial hair, and people with existing heart disease or breathing problems. 
  • If you have asthma or other lung diseases, make sure you follow your doctor’s directions about taking your medicines and follow your asthma management plan. Call your health care provider if your symptoms worsen.  
  • Stay indoors and keep indoor air as clean as possible. Take the following steps when indoors:   
  • Keep windows and doors closed. Track the air quality and open your windows for fresh air when the air quality improves. Pay attention to the heat indoors and follow guidance in the section below if it’s too hot.   
  • Run an air conditioner, set it to re-circulate and close the fresh-air intake. Make sure to change the filter regularly. 
  • Use an air cleaner with a  high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter to reduce indoor air pollution. A HEPA filter will reduce the number of irritating fine particles in indoor air. A HEPA filter with charcoal will help remove some of the gases from the smoke. Do not use an air cleaner that produces ozone. For more information:  
  • Don’t add to indoor pollution. Don’t use food boilers, candles, incense, fireplaces, or gas stoves. Don’t vacuum unless your vacuum has a HEPA filter, because vacuuming stirs up particles already inside your home. Don’t smoke, because smoking puts even more pollution into the air. 
  • Consider leaving the area if the air quality is poor and it’s not possible to keep indoor air clean, especially if you or those you are caring for are having health problems or are in a sensitive group. See section above titled, who is especially sensitive to smoke.