Environment
A hazy Seattle skyline is shown on Tuesday, August 14, 2018, from Hamilton Viewpoint Park in West Seattle.
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A hazy Seattle skyline is shown on Tuesday, August 14, 2018, from Hamilton Viewpoint Park in West Seattle.
Credit: KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

Wildfire smoke could waft into Seattle starting Sunday

August is a month we've come to associate with out-of-control wildfires and air quality warnings. This summer may be shaping up to be different. So far, fires in the Pacific Northwest are fewer and smaller.

We had a cooler and wetter July than normal.

British Columbia was even wetter. Last year, B.C. had hundreds of wildfires, many of them raging and out-of-control, and these fires were responsible for a lot of the particulate that gave Seattle the worst air in the world.

Right now there are only 24 fires, mostly small, and only two of note.

Our wildfire fortunes could change, however, because May was unusually warm and dry with days that reached the 90s.

That may come back to haunt us, says Erik Saganic of the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency. "When you think about drying fuels over a longer time period, that all plays in," he said.

A fire in the eastern Cascades could bring us smoke by Sunday afternoon or Monday. But we're talking moderate air conditions, not stay-inside conditions.

There is also a chance that smoke from fires in southern Oregon will besmirch our blue skies Monday to Wednesday, depending on the wind.

And there is also a chance, according to Hilary Franz, the state commissioner of public lands, that our relatively clement situation could change.

Dry weather, lightning strikes, people doing things that allow forest fires to start — all of these could change the story of the summer of 2019 in an instant.