YAKIMA — Washington residents can keep track of fire and smoke activity in their area with the Washington Smoke Information blog.
The state Department of Ecology, the U.S. Forest Service, The state Department of Health and other state, federal and county governments post up-to-date information on smoke effects, smoke movement forecasts and other related information directly to the site, according to a recent Ecology statement.
The site, at wasmoke.blogspot.com, was built by volunteers, who also maintain it.
Ecology spokesperson Joye Redfield-Wilder said the site was launched during fire season last year.
“We had some pretty big smoke episodes in the Wenatchee area and the Ellensburg area and this came up as a good clearinghouse,” she said. “We were getting calls from citizens wondering if their kids could go out and do athletics, and people from Western Washington were also calling because they were traveling through Eastern Washington.”
By visiting the site, a resident could get all the fire and smoke-related information he or she needed without having to call around to different agencies, she said.
“It turned into a really great, centralized location for different agencies to pop on and put up their information,” Redfield-Wilder said.
The various agencies involved with the website post content on the site’s home page, she said. The most recent posts are always at the top.
“Right now there’s a Chelan/Douglas health district release, something from the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency), plus a weekly forecast of what we think the smoke might do in different areas,” she said.
Breaking updates on fires in Washington also appear with other posts on the home page. The top of the home page has an interactive map.
“The map shows where different fires are and if you click on the icons you get detailed information,” Redfield-Wilder said.
Some of the information on the map includes how much of the fire is contained, where the fire’s boundaries are, and any potential risk to homes or other buildings. Residents can look up information on fires in other states, not just Washington, she said.
The map also has other functions.
“If you click on ‘layers’ you can see air quality conditions, they come up as dots where monitors are,” Redfield-Wilder said. “Green is good, yellow means it could start to get problematic and red means the air quality is pretty bad.”
Under the map are several tabs with links, she said. The Department of Health for example, has links to websites with information on the health affects of smoke exposure in both English and Spanish.
There is also a tab with a list of webcams available in areas of the state that are most likely to experience smoke impacts from the fires. Redfield-Wilder said the site is a good way for residents to stay up-to-date on fire and smoke activity in their area.