WENATCHEE — While fires have cooled thanks to suppression efforts and weather, their effects remain fiercely visible one month after their outbreak.
Air pollution continues to hit unhealthy levels or worse throughout North Central Washington, particularly in Wenatchee and Cashmere — the latter the hardest-hit of all NCW towns.
Fine-particle counts in Cashmere peaked above 90 micrograms per cubic meter of air Friday through Monday — well above the 80.5 level at which Washington state health officials declare the air “very unhealthy.” Conversely, levels there have not touched the dreaded “hazardous” reading — 135.4 micrograms or above — since Oct. 1, when they maxed out near 270.
At 6 a.m. today, Cashmere showed an unhealthy reading of 52 micrograms, after peaking at 71 micrograms two hours earlier.
Wenatchee registered an unhealthy 65.6 about 5 a.m. today, after averaging 86.9 on Monday — a reading that tipped over into the very unhealthy range.
Chelan showed 20.5, a reading judged unhealthy for sensitive groups including people with asthma and cardiac or respiratory conditions. The town averaged 21.7 micrograms Monday. Entiat was at 45 micrograms this morning.
State forecasters believe a wet spell could settle some airborne smoke this coming weekend, although Washington Department of Ecology atmospheric scientist Ranil Dhammapala said computer models don’t predict enough precipitation to quench the region’s fires.
Most of the fires in the Wenatchee Complex are in mop-up or rehabilitation mode. But fire officials remind residents that campfire restrictions remain in effect due to the extremely dry conditions.
“From this Mud Creek Fire (near Entiat) on Sunday, we saw how quickly it can spread. And that can happen with a campfire too,” said Forest Service spokeswoman Robin DeMario.
The 16,853-acre St. Mary’s Mission Road Fire near Omak is now 60 percent contained, and fire officials are beginning to demobilize some resources, including two of its seven helicopters.
Students at the Paschal Sherman Indian School — closed since the fire broke out one week ago — returned to classes today. The St. Mary’s Mission Road and Columbia River Road also reopened.
The cause of that fire is still under investigation, said fire spokesman Nick Cronquist.
World staff writer K.C. Mehaffey contributed to this report.