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Central Washington University

Local Air QualityUpdated
16EllensburgJun 30 1:00 am
13WenatcheeJun 30 1:00 am
27YakimaJun 30 1:00 am
23Moses LakeJun 30 1:00 am
Air Quality Legend
WA Department of Ecology

Kittitas County Fire Updates

Welcome to the CWU wildfire information page. If a fire in the region affects air quality and the daily lives of people in Kittitas County, we will provide accurate, up-to-date information on this page.

Wildfire smoke forecast for east Cascades slopes

September 15, 2015 — Warm weather over the weekend increased smoke production at several fires, and while fire lines have held, some new but small fires have sprung up.

Large scale smoke build-ups are not expected, though light east winds tonight may drive some smoke toward the eastern foothills of the Cascades. Small amounts of smoke may even pass into western Washington.

Between now and Wednesday afternoon, Ellensburg, Yakima, and Goldendale could see air quality fluctuate from healthy, to moderate, to unhealthy for sensitive groups. Winds are likely to pick up after that, but valley communities will probably be slower to scour out. Good air is expected statewide by Thursday.


Expect good air quality to continue

September 4, 2015 — Favorable weather conditions will make for continued good air quality today and Saturday for most of the state, including Kittitas County. Folks near current fires, especially in northeast Washington, may see some periods of unhealthy air. 

Things are ramping down at the state emergency operations center and many agencies have been deactivated or are contributing remotely.

The video below is a virtual fly-through of the Chelan Complex Fire, the Okanogan Complex Fire, and other fires in Washington, using public fire data from the US Forest Service. 


CWU women's soccer raises money for fire victims

September 3, 2015 — The CWU women's soccer team has raised more than $1,000 to help families who lost their homes in the Chelan fires. The money was collected in just five days through a GoFundMe campaign

Donations will be sent to Community Foundation of North Central Washington, which helps support charitable causes throughout Chelan, Douglas, and Okanogan counties.


Sheriff issues level 2 evacuations in Vantage due to fire

August 27, 2015 — Kittitas County sheriff's deputies have given evacuation notices in the Vantage area due to a fire burning on the Yakima Training Center. Folks from Vantage proper to the state park on Huntzinger Road are under a level 1 notice. Everyone south of the state park, including Auvil, are under a level 2 notice.

Kittitas County and the U.S. Army are working together in support of the firefighting efforts. The cause of the fire has not been determined, according to a county news release.

  • A level 1 evacuation notice means residents are encouraged to begin precautionary movement of people with special needs, mobile property, pets and livestock.
  • A level 2 evacuation notice means be prepared to leave at a moment's notice.
  • A level 3 evacuation notice means folks are advised to evacuate immediately.


Air quality alert in effect until further notice

August 25, 2015 — An air quality alert remains in effect for Kittitas County until further notice. Nearby wildfires and forecasted conditions will cause air pollution to fluctuate to unhealthy levels, according to the National Weather Service. Widespread haze is expected in Ellensburg Wednesday, August 26 with a high near 90. A south 5-7 mph wind is expected in the afternoon.

Smoke can cause burning eyes, runny nose, aggravate heart and lung disease, and other serious health problems. The state Department of Ecology recommends folks limit outdoor activities and keep children indoors when it is smoky.

Respirator masks labeled N95 or N100 can provide some protection from smoke. CWU students, faculty, staff and guests may request an N95 mask at the SURC information desk. Masks also may be purchased at hardware stores and pharmacies for about $10-$20 for a box of 20. (The mask must be type N95 or N100 to be helpful.)

Detailed instructions on using a mask are available in English and Spanish on the state Department of Health’s website.

In a news release, the Kittitas County Public Health Department acknowledged the community’s active residents who enjoy the outdoors. “Ultimately, we want activities to resume, but safely," said Dr. Mark Larson, Kittitas County Health Officer. “We want activities outdoors when we have ‘good’ air and when air changes to ‘moderate’ or worse, we want people to start making changes, which would include moving indoors.”


CWU offers tuition waivers to students displaced by wildfires

August 25, 2015 — Central Washington University is giving $1,000 in tuition waivers to students whose families have been displaced by fires in north central Washington. The move will help about 300 current and incoming students.

CWU president James L. Gaudino said reducing families' tuition burden is one way the university can help them cope with the fire disaster. CWU has been at the center of wildfire emergencies enough times to know the fear and the hardship it imposes on communities, he said.

"Wildfire of this magnitude is life-changing for businesses, for local government, for schools—and especially for families," Gaudino said. "As families struggle to deal with the losses resulting from the fire, lowering tuition bills is a small way we can help them recover from this catastrophe."

After the landslide near Oso, CWU waived all room-and-board fees and other football camp costs for Darrington High School players. During the Taylor Bridge, Table Mountain and other recent fires, the university provided communications and housing support to the Red Cross and fire crews. Employees helped rescue animals, process clothing and other donations, and provided space for public meetings and other activities. Last week the university offered similar support for the Chelan and Okanogan fires, but Ellensburg is too far from the front lines for facilities to be helpful.

"It's been hard to just watch the wildfires unfold and be too far away to help as we always have," Gaudino said. "We are ready to welcome students and help them focus on their studies instead of what's been a pretty terrible summer for those affected."

In response to last week’s call from the state Department of Natural Resources for experienced volunteers, CWU is allowing liberal use of personal leave for employees wanting to help in the fight. Leave is permitted at the discretion of supervisors, so long as university business needs are met. The first day of fall quarter is September 23.

In 2012, 2013, and 2014 massive wildfires burned across timber, range, and farmland in central Washington, at one point advancing to within five miles of Ellensburg. The area has seen a handful of small fires so far this year, and like all employers and residents of the region CWU is closely monitoring fire activity. Updates are provided online at

Media contact: Barb Arnott, CWU Public Affairs, 509-963-2841,


Air quality remains poor in Central Washington

August 24, 2015 — Virtually all areas east of the Cascades, including Ellensburg, are experiencing smoky conditions and poor air quality today. Winds are predicted to pick up later today, which may improve air quality somewhat near the east slopes of the Cascades and the Columbia Basin.

Forecasters say there is no sign of  improvement for Tuesday, August 25. In fact, air quality may be somewhat worse in most areas as winds lessen.

The video below is a virtual fly-through of the Chelan Complex Fire, the Okanogan Complex Fire, and other fires in North Central Washington, using public MODIS+VIIRS fire data from the US Forest Service.


How to help people affected by Washington wildfires

August 21, 2015 — Thousands of people have been evacuated from their homes as wildfires throughout the state continue to grow in size. Today President Barack Obama declared an emergency for Washington, which authorizes the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency to coordinate relief efforts in central and eastern Washington.

You can help people affected by disasters like the Washington fires and countless other crises by making a donation to support American Red Cross Disaster Relief.

Click, text, or call to donate to the Red Cross to help people affected by disasters big and small. Visit, call 1-800-REDCROSS, or text the word REDCROSS to 90999, to make a $10 donation.

Folks also can donate through the Wildfire Relief Center, a special campaign of the Washington State Combined Fund Drive member charities.


Wind blows smoke out of the Kittitas Valley

August 20, 2015 — Windy conditions have blown away the wildfire smoke that collected in Kittitas County this week, leaving the Ellensburg area with good air quality.

But due to the shift, the National Weather Service has issued a wind advisory for today through Friday evening. Northwest winds of 30-35 mph with gusts of up to 45 mph are expected. Drivers in high-profile vehicles traveling along I-90 and I-82, including Manastash Ridge, should be aware of strong cross winds. 

A red flag warning for critical fire weather conditions also remains in effect. 


Ellensburg air unhealthy for sensitive groups

August 19, 2015 — Air quality in Ellensburg has been unhealthy for sensitive groups for most of today due to the regional wildfires. Sensitive groups include people with heart or lung disease, asthma, diabetes, infants, children, adults older than 65, pregnant women, and people who have had a stroke. These groups should limit time spent outdoors.

Central Washington should see increasing winds on Thursday which will help disperse smoke, according to the National Weather Service.

A red flag warning remains in effect through Friday due to the potential for extreme fire growth caused by a combination of winds, low relative humidity, and warm temperatures. 


Local air quality fluctuates due to regional wildfires

August 18, 2015 —Air quality in Kittitas County has ranged from good, to moderate, to unhealthy for sensitive groups in the past two days due to multiple fires burning in the northwest. Real-time air quality information is available through Washington's air monitoring network operated by the Department of Ecology.

Ecology's air quality alert remains in effect until noon Thursday, August 20. When air quality is poor, people should limit time spent outdoors, especially folks with heart or lung problems. For more information about health concerns related to air quality, contact the Kittitas County Public Health Department at 509-962-7515.

The National Weather Service has also issued a red flag warning for central Washington Wednesday through Friday. Forecasted dry and unstable weather, breezy conditions and low relative humidity create extreme fire growth potential.


Air quality alert issued for Kittitas County, surrounding areas

August 17, 2015 — An air quality alert is in effect for Kittitas County and surrounding counties until noon Thursday, due to the large number of wildfires burning in the northwest. The National Weather Service in conjunction with the Washington State Department of Ecology issued the alert late this morning. 

The regional wildfires, combined with temperatures in the high 80s to low 90s with light wind, will cause air quality to reach unhealthy conditions, the alert says.

Pollutants in smoke can cause burning eyes, runny nose, and aggravate heart and lung disease and other serious health problems. Limit outdoor activities and keep children indoors when it is smoky. 

Students, faculty, staff and guests having a hard time with the smoky conditions can request a N95 respirator mask at the Student Medical and Counseling Clinic or the information desk in the SURC.


Fires in Washington and Oregon make for smoky conditions

August 11, 2015 — Several large fires burning in the Northwest are making for smoky conditions in Central Washington. While air quality in the Ellensburg area was good this morning, the neighboring communities of Yakima and Moses Lake were recording moderate air pollution and Toppenish was unhealthy for sensitive groups. For current air quality conditions, visit Ecology's online map.

The Wolverine Fire, burning in a remote area near Lake Chelan north of Wenatchee, is responsible for much of the smoke visible in the valley. For more information, visit the Wolverine Fire incident website and the Washington smoke blog.

The map depicts large fires in Oregon and Washington reported to the Northwest Interagency Coordination Center.


Moderate air quality recorded in Ellensburg

July 9, 2015 — Much of the state is experiencing impaired air quality from wildfire smoke. The air-monitoring site in downtown Ellensburg is recording moderate air pollution today.

Moderate means people with asthma, respiratory infection, diabetes, lung or heart disease, or who have had a stroke may begin to have breathing problems, according to the state Department of Ecology, which operates air-monitoring sites throughout Washington. These people should limit their time outdoors or modify their activities (for instance, walk instead of run).

“We realize that many residents are anxious and uneasy about this season’s wildfire forecast," said Robin Read, administrator of the Kittitas County Public Health Department. "Our air quality updates are not intended to increase anxiety, but to remind residents who may have sensitive conditions to be aware of changing air quality and take necessary precautions.”


Regional fires create general haze in Central Washington

July 7, 2015 — Timber fires and several brush fires are producing smoke in the Pacific Northwest, creating a general haze in Central Washington.

Winds are expected to push more smoke into the area, which will settle in most valley locations and compromise air quality, according to information on the Washington Smoke Blog. The NASA image below shows smoke swirling in British Columbia and drifting into Washington.

Today through Friday (July 7-10) could see the poorest air quality of the season so far — from moderate to unhealthy for sensitive groups.

Stronger winds Friday afternoon should clear the air.


Links to more information

Washington Air Quality Map

Emergency Response Information  |  Washington Smoke Information Blog

Washington State Fire Map  |  InciWeb Incident Information System

Wildfire Relief Center, a special campaign of Washington State Combined Fund Drive member charities

Instructions on using N95 or N100 masks in English and Spanish