Smoke from wildfires across British Columbia, coupled with several wildfires in Whatcom County, was making the air unhealthy and overwhelming 911 dispatchers Sunday, July 5.
“Everywhere I look, there is smoke,” said Bill Hewett, assistant chief of the Bellingham Fire Department.
A Northwest Clean Air Agency monitoring station at 2412 Yew St. showed a Washington Air Quality Advisory reading of “unhealthy,” and nearing the “very unhealthy stage,” about 9 p.m. Sunday. Similar readings were observed at other monitoring stations in Whatcom County.
B.C. Wildfire Service shows several active wildfires in the province, as shown in this interactive map.
A Washington state Department of Ecology map of air quality showed moderate conditions for Bellingham and unhealthy air for sensitive groups living in the north county area from Custer to Kendall.
Hewett said fire department dispatchers had taken between 50 and 100 calls for general smoke investigations and had sent firefighters to 14 credible alarms in just a few hours Sunday afternoon. Police dispatchers seemed to be experiencing similar headaches with calls for illegal fireworks complaints.
A northwest wind was bringing the smoke south, Hewett said. He cautioned residents to limit their emergency calls to a verified fire.
“If they see actual fire, they should call 911,” he said.