Air quality warning imminent due to fires and winds

Mona Mattei
By Mona Mattei
August 27th, 2010

An air quality warning may be occurring at any time today, according to Paul Willis with the Ministry of Environment. A mixture of dust being raised by winds, smoke from nearby fires in Washington State and fires in B.C. are causing enough particulate in our air in the Grand Forks valley to cause concern.

“Currently we are having trouble posting our PM2.5 values on our BCAIRQUALITY.CA website, which many of you track,” said Willis. “However, our instrument is collecting data and Im watching the numbers closely this morning.  We are indeed seeing some spikes this morning.  We are not yet at our advisory threshold but there is a good chance I might issue one soon. “

Willis said that he sees three major emission sources:

1.      There is a fire near Keremeos which is producing a good deal of smoke.   Winds have shifted from the southwest direction and more from the west bringing smoke into the Grand Forks bowl,

2.      There is currently fire being fought in northern part of Washington State.   I dont have the specifics on the location,

3.      Winds have been strong yesterday and today and there is considerable dust in the air from tilling in Washington.   While most of this is coarser than PM2.5 it will contribute somewhat to the haze and to PM2.5 levels. 

Willis confirmed that the last hourly average of PM2.5 in Grand Forks (08:00 PDT) exceeded 65 ug/m3 while the twenty-four average is currently around 19 ug/m3.

Karlie Shaunessy, fire information officer with the Southeast Fire center agreed that the smoke in the air is coming from fires outside of the Kootenay / Boundary area. “There are no fires in your general vicinity, the smoke is blowing in from the Kamloops fire center, and there is a fire near Keremeos. Or it’s from fires south of you in Washington.”

The Washington State Department of Resources dispatched 350 employees to fight fires in eastern Washington state last night. The nearest fires to the Grand Forks area are located at Slide Creek in Stephens County which is not contained and 65 homes are on evacuation notice, and the Fish Hatcheries Road fire near Curlew which is also not contained. Both fires were reported on Aug. 26.

Willis again, warns. “that an advisory may be forthcoming but we are going to see some dynamic changes in the weather that should make any  advisory short-lived.   Of course, wildfire behaviour is erratic so my forecast can only carry so much confidence.”

Categories: General