The Ritzville Adams County Journal - Eastern Adams County's Only Independent Voice Since 1887

Air quality hits hazardous levels in Adams County


Last updated 8/23/2018 at Noon

HAZARDOUS AIR QUALITY. A view of downtown Ritzville down Main Avenue shows much of the sky covered in smoke on Aug. 19. The City of Ritzville was one of several cities in the region where the air quality index (AQI) was over 300, which put it in the hazardous range. Winds brought smoke to the area from wildfires from northern and central Washington, and from Canada. -Journal photo by Al Stover

A blanket of smoke has hung over Adams County for a past few weeks, but on in the afternoon on Aug. 19, the skies darkened and the air quality drastically decreased for residents. Sunday afternoon marked the beginning of hazardous air quality conditions for residents, which remained in effect for nearly 24 hours.

The county had experience unhealthy and very unhealthy air quality levels for the past week, according to the Department of Ecology’s Air Quality Monitoring chart. The Air Quality Index recorded as high as 314 for Ritzville, reducing the visibility to less than one mile and classifying the outdoor conditions as hazardous.

In hazardous conditions, residents were encouraged to stay indoors, only do light activities and keep windows closed.

By the evening on Aug. 21, Ritzville recorded in the unhealthy category, with all residents being recommended to limit time spent outdoors, according to the Air Quality Index.

The air quality is being affected by wildfires burning throughout central and eastern Washington, as well as Canada. While conditions improved within the next 48 hours, smoke is expected to remain in the air for the immediate future.

The Adams County Health Department issued a public health advisory on Aug. 15 explaining wildfire smoke is a mixture of gases and fine particles released when things burn.

The fine particles lead to burning eyes, as well as the particles and gases can be inhaled deep into lungs, making it harder to breathe. It can also worsen existing chronic health conditions.

ACHD reminded residents that inhaling smoke is unhealthy for everyone. Those most likely to have health problems from breathing smoke include: children, adults over 65, and people with existing health conditions.

Existing health conditions that increase risk include respiratory infections, respiratory disease, heart or circulatory disease, diabetes, or history of stroke.

Eye, nose and throat irritation is also affected by smoke, which can cause coughing, shortness of breath, headache, and aggravation of existing lung, heart and circulatory conditions.

ACHD recommended residents protect themselves and their families by staying indoors as much as possible and reducing outdoor activities. Residents were reminded to run an air conditioner to re-circulate and close the fresh-air intake, as well as change the filter.

During times of poor air quality, individuals should not burn candles, incense, fireplaces or gas stoves. People are also recommended not to vacuum during this time as well, as it stirs up particles already inside the home.

ACHD said N95 or P100 masks, if fitting properly and worn correctly, can provide protection against outdoor wildfire smoke, but will not protect from the particles present in the smoke. Individuals with lung or heart disease, or who are critically ill, should contact their healthcare provider before using a make.

For additional information on air quality monitoring, visit


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