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Wednesday, September 27, 2023
Sept. 27, 2023

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East Clark County air quality pushed into unhealthy range

Much of Southwest Washington was blanketed by smog from the Nakia Creek Fire

By , Columbian staff reporter
4 Photos
The sun shines through a layer of fog and smoke Tuesday, Sept. 18, 2022, at Lacamas Lake in Camas. Smoke from the Nakia Creek Fire and a morning layer of fog pushed air quality into the unhealthy range.
The sun shines through a layer of fog and smoke Tuesday, Sept. 18, 2022, at Lacamas Lake in Camas. Smoke from the Nakia Creek Fire and a morning layer of fog pushed air quality into the unhealthy range. (Taylor Balkom/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

Air quality significantly degraded Monday night and early Tuesday, pushing into the unhealthy range across parts of Southwest Washington and Clackamas, Multnomah, Washington and Columbia counties in Oregon.

Smoke from the Nakia Creek Fire covers much of the region, according to the Southwest Clean Air Agency.

A Stage 2 burn ban has been issued for Clark, Cowlitz and Lewis counties effective immediately until noon Thursday, according to a press release from the agency. This means all outdoor burning along with the use of fireplaces, wood stoves and inserts is prohibited until further notice. The release does note that if wood burning is the only source of heat for your residence you are exempt, though asked to burn as clean as possible.

“We are hopeful that calling this Stage 2 burn ban will moderate ambient levels of fine particulate matter until a more active weather system moves in,” said Uri Papish, executive director for the agency, in the press release. “We are not asking anyone to go without heat, but to use an alternative source of heat if possible until wildfire smoke and weather patterns change to return our air quality to healthy levels.”

Air quality was considered unhealthy as of Tuesday afternoon with an Air Quality Index of 164 in central Vancouver. Levels reached 210, considered very unhealthy, close to the fire, according to data from the Washington Department of Ecology shared on the Environmental Protection Agency’s airnow.gov website.

Nakia Creek Fire

Tents begin to fill a field across from Grove Field in Camas for firefighters battling the Nakia Creek Fire. The camp will include meal areas, showers and everything crews need to rest up before heading back to the fire.Nakia Creek Fire grows overnight, no change to evacuation zones
The Nakia Creek Fire grew to 1,796 acres overnight, but officials said Tuesday the growth is normal as they establish new lines around the blaze.
The Clark County Fire Marshal's Office is asking for the public's help identifying the vehicle pictured as a part of the investigation into the cause of the Nakia Creek Fire. The agency said the image was captured at around 3:30 p.m. Oct. 9 on a ridge near Larch Mountain.Clark County Fire Marshal’s Office seeks vehicle, people of interest in wildfire investigation
The Clark County Fire Marshal’s Office is asking for the public’s help identifying a vehicle and the people associated with it as a part of…
(The Columbian files)Larch prisoners remain offsite due to Nakia Creek Fire
Incarcerated individuals at Larch Corrections Center are settling into temporary housing after being evacuated Sunday from the minimum security facility, near Yacolt, due to the…

Officials are urging individuals to take steps to reduce exposure to the pollutants in the air. This means limiting time spent outside, avoiding strenuous activity and wearing an N95 mask if you do go outdoors, according to the Washington State Department of Health.

The agency also recommends a number of measures to keep indoor air clean:

  •  Close your windows and doors.
  •  Do not add to indoor air pollution by actions such as burning candles or smoking indoors.
  •  If you have an air conditioning unit, set it to recirculate.

Unhealthy, smoky air can lead to some symptoms or health problems, according to Clark County Public Health. Some symptoms include: sore throat, headaches, burning eyes, coughing, runny nose, shortness of breath or chest pain. If you are experiencing severe symptoms such as shortness of breath or chest pain, Clark County Public Health urges individuals to seek medical attention.

Washington Air Quality Guidelines for School and Child Care Activities direct schools to take measures to keep students healthy. If air quality is greater than 150 on the AQI index, all outdoor activities will be suspended, according to a email sent out to families from John Boyd, superintendent of Evergreen Public Schools.

Nearly all outdoor high school sporting events and practices were canceled or postponed. All seven girls soccer matches scheduled for Tuesday in Clark County were called off and rescheduled for later this week.

Officials urge individuals to monitor the air quality in their area to stay safe.

More information about air quality can be found at swcleanair.gov, airnow.gov or wasmoke.blogspot.com.

Columbian staff reporter