Wildfires rage throughout west coast

Emmanuel Son, Staff Writer

Wildfires impacted air quality on campus, creating gray skies and hazardous air quality. Photo by MaKenzie Barnson

The week of Sept. 13 was smokey and blazing for areas of Calif., Ore., and Wash. On the morning of Thursday, Sept. 10, San Francisco woke up to orange skies as wildfires continued to burn throughout parts of northern Calif. As a result of these fires, smoke has been flowing up north causing historic poor air quality in parts of Ore. and Wash.

In the Ore. wildfires, there have been at least 35 deaths with dozens missing. As of Monday Sept. 14, there has been very little improvement in containing the fires. In a state address, Gov. Kate Brown of Ore. stated that more than one million acres have burned. Wash. has also been an area of concern, with these fires being the second worst in state history, as shared in press conferences by Gov. Jay Inslee. He announced that 626,982 acres have burned since Monday, Sept. 10. 

The National Interagency Fire Center recently reported that the total amount of acres burned is around 5 million. Smoke has also been another major concern regarding these fires. On Sept. 11, Seattle faced the worst air quality in the nation.

As smoke continues to affect air quality, the concern over its impact on the health of residents continues to rise. Although the smoke has helped keep temperatures cool, there are larger concerns over visibility and inhalation. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency declared Portland’s air quality to be on the hazardous level as fires burned. 

Portland recently ranked with Seattle on the top 10 list of cities with worst air. Dr. Jennifer Vines of the Portland area tells NPR that even though smoke outside appears as a huge cloud, it is made up of tiny particles. 

“These particles can penetrate deep into the lungs and even cross into the bloodstream,” Vines, Ph.D., shared. She states that the people who are most in danger are those who are older. Other people who are at risk are those with underlying heart or lung conditions. On top of limiting outdoor activity, officials in Thurston County recommend using a HEPA filter for ventilation systems while also setting systems to recirculation modes.

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