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News / Health / Clark County Health

Wildfire smoke pushes Clark County air quality into unhealthy range despite welcome rain

By Lauren Ellenbecker, Columbian staff writer
Published: August 31, 2023, 3:14pm

Smelly, stuffy signs from a wildfire in Oregon’s Mount Hood National Forest crept into Clark County early Thursday.

Wind pushed smoke westward from the Camp Creek Fire, about 25 miles east of Portland, into the metro area. A cold front washed over the region, coating the landscape with a cool, wet cover and providing relief, said Shawn Weagle, forecaster for the National Weather Service in Portland. However, with tapered wind patterns, a slight smoky scent remained.

The Southwest Clean Air Agency issued an air pollution advisory for Clark and Cowlitz counties on Thursday due to an increased level of fine particulate matter. The Air Quality Index, a scale measuring air pollution, rated most of Vancouver’s air as “moderate,” or acceptable, by late afternoon after a morning in the “unhealthy” range. Smoke drifted northbound, resulting in Longview’s air quality worsening, first rated as “unhealthy” and then “moderate” as the day passed.

With an unhealthy air rating, the agency recommends that everyone reduce their exposure and limit time outdoors. Sensitive groups — including children, older adults, people who are pregnant and those with preexisting health conditions — should be particularly careful.

Improved wind flow and a drizzle will provide relief to the area Friday, Weagle said.

Current air information is available at www.swcleanair.gov/burning/airquality.asp.

Dozens of fires continue to burn across the Gifford Pinchot National Forest following a lightning storm late last week, though recent rainfall eased the severity of the burns.

Nearly 300 personnel are addressing the Cowlitz Complex Fire, which now encompasses 400 acres in the forest, reported Jared Hohn, Rocky Mountain Area Complex Incident Management commander.

The Snagtooth and Specer Quartz fires, 21 miles south of Randle on Snagtooth Mountain’s southern face, are the largest of the complex’s more than 40 fires. Crews are repairing landslide damage to improve access to the fires. Trails and roads near the Snagtooth Fire remain closed to the public.

Further updates on the Cowlitz Complex Fires can be found on www.inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident-information/wagpf-cowlitz-complex.

Open fires are prohibited across the Gifford Pinchot National Forest. Further fire restrictions can be found on the U.S. Forest Service’s website, www.fs.usda.gov/main/giffordpinchot/fire.

For more information about the Cowlitz Complex, call the fire phone line, 360-208-8075, between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. or email 2023.cowlitzcomplex@firenet.gov.

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This story was made possible by Community Funded Journalism, a project from The Columbian and the Local Media Foundation. Top donors include the Ed and Dollie Lynch Fund, Patricia, David and Jacob Nierenberg, Connie and Lee Kearney, Steve and Jan Oliva, The Cowlitz Tribal Foundation and the Mason E. Nolan Charitable Fund. The Columbian controls all content. For more information, visit columbian.com/cfj.

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Columbian staff writer