Firefighters think smoke in Yakima Valley could last until the end of the year

Firefighters think smoke in Yakima Valley could last until the end of the year.

YAKIMA, Wash.- Smoky skies have covered the Yakima Valley for about two weeks and people have been advised to limit time outdoors to avoid breathing it in.

The air quality advisory is supposed to end tomorrow, but Jeff Pfaff with the Yakima Fire Department thinks the smoke may still be around until winter.

"This is going to be something that's going to go until these fires are out and we may have some good days, clear days but we are going to get more days where this is going to drop in," he said.

The fires in Oregon, Eastern Washington and Montana have all contributed to the smoke, but the smoke from these fires is different than smoke you may breathe in at a barbecue.

"Wildland smoke has a lot of things in it,” Pfaff said. “When you look at it you got trees burning, weeds, leaves all this dead debris and it has a lot of soot and ash in it."

Now the smoke may not be a problem for people that just need to get to and from the office during the week.

However, it becomes a problem when it's your job to be outside most the time. Wearing an N-95 respirator mask can do a lot more good than wearing a surgical mask or a bandana.

Lori Kelley is with the Yakima Valley Farm Workers Clinic and said while respirator masks can protect healthy people from the smoke; they shouldn't be used by everyone because it makes it a little bit harder to breathe.

"Not everyone is healthy enough to wear a respirator or got out and buy an N-95,” Kelley said. “That's why we encourage people with health conditions to see their health provider."

The N-95 mask filters out 95 percent of the particulates in the air, so you may still smell the fire but that doesn't mean it isn't working.

While your health care provider may say it's okay to wear the mask, Kelley says it shouldn't be worn for more than 45 minutes to an hour at a time. Especially if you are working outside.

"If you are outside in this air quality and you start having heart palpitations or shortness of breath that doesn't resolve quickly you should be seen immediately by a health care provider," Kelley said.

The smoke advisory is set to end tomorrow morning, but it's best to be prepared just in case the smoke comes rolling back into the valley.

Kelley also wants people to know you need to be clean shaven to get a quality seal with the mask and small children shouldn't use them.

It's almost impossible for them to get a seal and without the seal the mask really doesn't help.

Information and resources from the Washington State Department of Health.

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