Images from space show wildfire smoke swallowing northwest

By: Ashli Blow, KIRO 7 News Digital Producer

Updated:

Wildfires burned more than 150,000 acres at one point this week, sending relentless smoke over the Puget Sound region – with even some ash scattering in people’s front yards.

NASA satellite images show the wildfires and the thick smoke spreading over throughout nearly the entire northwest. See it in the slideshow above or here.

KIRO 7 Meteorologist Morgan Palmer explains that in the earlier slides, you see the smoke plumes with no clouds. As the smoke spreads out, a milky whitish color spreads across the state. In the last two days, the bright white part of the map are clouds, not smoke.

Scroll down to keep reading.


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NASA’s earth database from combines information from wildfire incident maps, and together the map points to fire and thermal anomalies. In the view for the evening, wildfires are seen from satellite at the red points. 

Nearly a dozen wildfires complexes are burning in Washington state as of Thursday afternoon. The following list shows some of the largest that contributed to the smoky skies. Click here for the latest acreage.

Diamond Creek Fire: Okanogan / Wenatchee National Forest — 105,000

Norse Peak Fire:  Okanogan / Wenatchee National Forest — 43,482

Jolly Mountain Fire: Okanogan / Wenatchee National Forest — 26,325

Uno Peak Fire: Okanogan / Wenatchee National Forest — 6,520

East Crater Fire: Gifford Pinchot National Forest — 1,000

This looks bad for the region, but it is at substantially lower levels in the Seattle area than when we saw during the smoky conditions in August, when the region had some of the worst air quality in the United States.

That’s even with the ash.

Earlier in the week, KIRO 7 asked people to submit zip codes for areas in which they saw ash falling.

Our digital team took hundreds of submitted zip codes and put them in the below map to give an idea on which areas saw the most ash fall.

By these submissions, KIRO 7 created an intensity map that’s based on the number of ash fall reports by zip code based on user-generated submissions. This map is not based on a scientific measurement of ash falling. Unlike something such as rainfall, there is not a gauge in the state that measures ash.

It is a way to compare locations to see how many of your neighbors and friends also have reported ash. Nearly 2,000 people sent reports to KIRO 7 News. 

How to read this map: In dark red areas, the number of reports was as high as 78, and in lighter red areas, there were fewer reports. Click or tap on a zip code area to see the exact number of reports.

Health leaders and air quality experts told KIRO 7 News that the ash and air quality are two separate matters.

Puget Sound Clean Air Quality scientist Phil Swartzendruber told KIRO 7 News that the ash is not a major health concern, like air quality conditions.

“There is a concern (with ash). Those larger particles – those can irritate the nose, throat and eyes,” Swartzendruber said.

>> RELATED: Should I wear a mask? Click here to read what health experts say

"They don’t have the same kind of health risk as the finer particles. The finer particles are really small, so small you can’t see them; they can go deeper into our lungs. They have much different set, and a more serious set, and pose a risk for cardiovascular disease and asthma.”

Swartzendruber had the following advice for people around smoke and ash: Take notice of what’s going on if you’re feeling symptoms such as irritation and go to a place that has filtered air, such as somewhere indoors.


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