Be smoke ready from home to highlands

What does it mean to be a smoke ready community? It means we know our sources of air pollution, are actively working to reduce them where possible, and have resources to keep vulnerable persons and households safe and healthy. This is especially important in Okanogan County, where we can experience smoky air year-round.
Okanogan Clean Air is providing our region with resources and information on how we can reduce unnecessary smoke where possible, and take simple steps to protect our health when needed. Below, we have identified ways you and your loved ones can protect yourself during the year’s four distinct smoke seasons. Together, we can stay healthy and improve the overall air quality in Okanogan County.

The Seasons

Fall: Outdoor Burning

The end of wildfire season doesn’t always mean an end to smoky air. As temperatures drop and moisture increases, the main sources of smoke are backyard burning of brush and yard waste and prescribed burning. While outdoor burning of vegetative waste has been common practice in our county for decades, we need to consider safer, healthier alternatives.

  • For information on local chipping and vegetation drives as a burning alternative, check with your neighborhood homeowner’s association, your town’s public works department, Okanogan County Solid Waste, the Okanogan Conservation District, or Clean Air Methow.
  • To learn more about alternatives to burning you can practice at home or possibly help organize for your neighborhood, school or HOA, click here.
  • If you burn, please consider how to minimize smoke impact on your neighbors and always burn safely. Choose a day to burn when there is good ventilation – call Ecology’s burn hotline (1-800-406-5322) to learn if it is a no burn day or if there is an air quality burn ban in your area. If so, please wait to burn on another day. Learn more about critical steps to take before you burn.
Winter: Home Heating Season

Wood smoke is Okanogan County’s longest-standing pollution problem, as the smoke from wood burning stoves gets trapped low to the ground in “the breathing zone” in stagnant winter air. This often means our air quality is in the yellow/orange category (moderate/unhealthy for sensitive groups).

Spring: Outdoor Burning

As in the fall season, spring smoke is most commonly caused by outdoor burning and prescribed forest burning. Every spring, hundreds of fires are started in Washington state by escaped burn piles. While outdoor burning of vegetative waste has been common practice in our county for decades, we need to consider safer, healthier alternatives.

Prescribed fire is a critical tool for managing forest health, decreasing future wildfire impacts and ultimately reducing the amount of smoke generated by forest fires. Burn managers take great care to reduce the chance of escaped burns and to keep smoke out of nearby communities. Compared to wildfires, prescribed burns are carefully planned, burn at much lower intensity and produce less smoke.

Summer: Wildfire Season

Okanogan County can experience prolonged periods of unhealthy smoke in the summer due to wildfires. We’ve developed a simple five-step checklist you can review while thinking about (or during) fire season. See the Smoke Ready Checklist below for more details on how to stay healthy and safe during this season.

  • For updated wildfire smoke forecasts, health information and smoke safety tips, visit or
  • To sign up for county emergency alerts about fire and smoke, text
    OKCOUNTY to 888777.

Smoke Ready Checklist

Be smoke ready from home to highlands

From home to highlands, protect your lungs and keep your indoor air clean.

Choose a room you can close off from outside air. Get an indoor air cleaning system set up to help keep your indoor air clean. Options include:

  • If you have HVAC, install the highest-rated MERV filter your system can handle.
  • Use a portable air purifier with a HEPA filter.
  • Attach a MERV-13 furnace filter to a box fan for an inexpensive DIY air cleaner.
Know how to get air quality information

Before making plans, especially if they’re outdoors, check a reliable source for the current air quality and adjust accordingly.

For more information on air quality and fires, visit the WA Smoke blog or

Okanogan County has a large number of sensors providing highly local information; find them at Clean Air Methow or

Make a plan for vulnerable household members

Consider how to keep children, seniors, pregnant women, those with heart or lung disease, and outdoor workers out of smoky air whenever possible.

For more on children’s health and wildfire smoke, visit

Consider ideas to stay mentally strong and engaged.

Social connection is key when you are isolated indoors.

Gather N95 Masks.

If you must be outside in heavy smoke, an N95 mask is essential. Cloth masks provide very little protection from wildfire smoke.

The Fifth Season Project

It shows up so reliably now that some call it “the fifth season” - those darkened skies, smells of smoke, and days of indoor confinement. Many of us have lived with it long enough to learn from it.

The Fifth Season is a series of audio stories from people in the Methow Valley and North Central Washington who have found ways to build wildfire smoke resilience. Their experiences can help us protect ourselves and our loved ones the next time the smoke rolls in. The Fifth Season has been expanded to include large scale photographic portraits of the featured community members, along with their audio stories. This audiovisual exhibit is hosted in the Winthrop library for Summer of 2022; enjoy it there or request it for your community space.

Learn More



Okanogan Clean Air is a communication campaign connected to a greater partnership between Clean Air Methow, the Okanogan River Airshed Partnership, and the Okanogan Coalition for Health Improvement working towards clean air for all.
Okanogan River Airshed Partnership

ORAP represents city, county, state, federal, Tribal governments and community programs working together to address high levels of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) in our area. Our mission statement emphasizes non-regulatory solutions, educational opportunities and providing alternative (non-burning) disposal methods.

Okanogan Coalition for Health Improvement

The Okanogan Coalition for Health Improvement (CHI) brings together a network of community health partners from all corners of Okanogan County to eliminate the health disparities that keep our neighbors, clients, and communities from living a full and healthy life.

Clean Air Methow

CAM works in partnership to improve air quality where possible, and protect health where necessary. Year-round programming advocates for clean air for all, promoting smoke-ready communities and wildfire smoke preparedness. Solutions to improving air quality and raising community awareness include chipping and vegetation drives, a woodstove exchange program, and our Clean Air Ambassador hosts of purple air sensors. CAM is a community-based project of the non-profit Methow Valley Citizens Council.

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