Those of us living where wildfires are an unfortunate and common part of our summer experience must also learn to live with the haze and smell of smoke in the air around us, even if the fire is many miles away. For the most part, we carry on with daily life regardless of the smoke, but for some – especially those with allergies or compromised respiratory systems – the amount of smoke in the air can severely impact what we can do outdoors as well as our quality of life.
Wind direction can determine which fire is the source of the haze in the air near you; sometimes its several fires. The PNW Smoke Map allows you to see just where the smoke is being created.
But how can you decide whether it’s a good idea to be outdoors when there’s wildfire smoke lingering in the air? The Idaho Department of Environmental Quality has a helpful website, showing air quality in real time. Air in any given location is rated good, moderate, unhealthy for sensitive groups, unhealthy, very unhealthy or hazardous.
Neighboring states have similar websites to help their residents and visitors monitor smoke and air quality.
To get a visual perspective of smoke from wildfires from space, visit NASA’s website and choose from a gallery of photos showing wildfires in various parts of the world.
While these maps help explain where the smoke is coming from and the quality of our air at any given time, mostly all we can do is wait for the rains and snows of autumn to extinguish any lingering wildfires and cleanse the air we breathe.