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Friday, May 14, 2021

Whatcom County air quality improves, wildfires under control

Air quality has improved in Whatcom and Skagit counties since a series of wildfires occurred in the region over the Fourth of July weekend.

Four wildfires have occurred in Whatcom County alone since Saturday, but 3 out of the four are under control, said Janet Pierce, Department of Natural Resources spokeswoman.

The smoke from fires in British Columbia and pollution from fireworks has resulted in poor air quality in the Bellingham area over the past few days. Local fires may also be contributing to the problem, said Katie Skipper, Northwest Clean Air Agency communications manager, in a press release.

“Because of the high fire danger, we have reached a stage where we cannot allow recreational fires,”  Bill Hewett, assistant chief of the Bellingham Fire Department said. He said Bellingham usually does not reach high fire danger until the end of August.

“It is scary that we have reached that point at the beginning of July,” Hewett said.

The Northwest Clean Air Agency is advising people to check air quality often and follow the state health guidelines to protect themselves, Skipper said.

“This kind of air quality is very unusual in our area,” said Mark Buford, Northwest Clean Air Agency deputy director, in a press release. “I don’t remember the last time we told people that they could travel south to the Seattle area to find cleaner air. There isn’t much the public can do about stopping smoke from existing wildfires, but people can take measures to protect themselves, and we can all help by preventing new fires from starting.”

The recent heat wave has caused concern for fire over the recent high temperatures. A county-wide burn ban was issued June 17.

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