A major fire in wood chip piles at a Longview paper mill Tuesday evening left surprised Clark County residents waking up to smoky, unhealthy air Wednesday morning.
Fine particulate pollution from the fire could linger through Friday.
The fire was reported at 6:40 p.m. Tuesday at Nippon Dynawave Packaging, near the foot of the Lewis and Clark Bridge across the Columbia River. No injuries have been reported. The cause of the fire is under investigation.
Prevailing winds blew the smoke away from the Longview-Kelso area and directly into Clark County and the Portland metro area. Aerial photos of the fire taken Tuesday evening show plumes of smoke arcing over the bridge and flowing south on the wind.
Residents near the mill were told to shelter in place. By 8:30 p.m., a smoky odor was reported as far south as downtown Portland, with residents from downtown Vancouver neighborhoods to the east edge of Vancouver asking if there was a wildfire in the area on the Nextdoor app.
As of 7 a.m. Wednesday, air quality in the Vancouver area was considered Unhealthy by the airnow.gov website, with an air quality index of 174. Conditions improved as the day progressed, moving into the Moderate range, with an air quality index of 98 at 11 a.m., and 70 at 1:30 p.m., and crossing into the Good range, with an air quality index of 49, as of 3:15 p.m.
Reduced air quality is likely to persist, however, according to the Southwest Clean Air Agency, which issued an air pollution advisory Wednesday morning for increasing fine particulate matter pollution through Friday due to the smoldering fire.
The advisory said smoke can cause a range of health problems, including chest pain, fast heartbeat, coughing, stinging eyes, asthma attack, trouble breathing, irritated sinuses and headaches. It advised that sensitive groups take precautions, including children, older adults, and people who are pregnant, have heart or lung issues (such as asthma and COPD), or who have had a stroke.
The precautions, which would also apply in the event the region is hit with wildfire smoke this summer, include:
- Staying indoors when possible.
- Limiting physical activity outdoors, such as running, bicycling, physical labor and sports.
- Closing windows, if possible, to keep the indoor air clean. People with air conditioners should use the “recirculation” switch. Use an indoor air filter if available.
- People without home air conditioners should consider finding a public place with clean, air-conditioned indoor air like a public library or a community center.
- Avoid driving, when possible. While driving, keep the windows closed. If using the car’s fan or air conditioning, make sure the system recirculates air from inside the car; don’t pull air from outside.
- Schools and day care providers should consider postponing outdoor activities or moving them indoors.
- N95 or N100 rated masks can help protect some people from air pollution. These masks are usually available at hardware and home repair stores. Check with a doctor to see if this is appropriate for you.
The Longview fire wasn’t the only plume contributing to bad air in the area. A four-alarm fire at a former Kmart at Northeast 122nd and Sandy Boulevard in Portland put out a header of smoke that could be seen from a distance. That fire started around 6:30 Wednesday morning and took several hours to control.
The Daily News of Longview contributed to this report.