Thursday, September 29, 2011

Quick Response Protects People from Harmful Smoke

By Joye Redfield-Wilder, Communication Manager, Central Regional Office

Smoke from the Monastery Complex fire on Satus Pass^Smoke from the Monastery Complex fire on Satus Pass
Ecology staff Stan Rauh and Greg Hannahs with the mobile monitor.^Ecology staff Stan Rauh and Greg Hannahs with the mobile monitor.
Air quality monitoring report^Air quality monitoring report
Talk about turnaround time — it was midday Friday, Sept. 9, and a request had come in from the Klickitat County Health Department for air quality monitoring in Goldendale. The Monastery Complex fire was raging on Satus Pass and the air was thick with smoke. By 4 p.m. Saturday, Air Quality monitoring staffers Stan Rauh and Greg Hannahs had snagged the mobile monitor in Brewster in North Central Washington and hauled it 235 miles south to Goldendale and had it up and running.

That’s after the two left their respective offices in Bellevue and Spokane. Talk about service! The first readings 24-hours later confirmed Environmental Health Director Jeff Martin’s health advisory on Friday for citizens to limit all outdoor activities and prompted a call to the Associated Press Monday morning when the monitor indicated the air quality was then unhealthy for everyone.

Also by Monday morning the "dot" on the air quality interactive map was live and had been moved from Brewster to a new spot in Klickitat County representing Goldendale. Now residents had real-time air quality information at their finger tips.

Contacts to news media had been made by email in the morning and a news release about the new monitoring unit distributed by 4 p.m. Monday afternoon.

In a message to Ecology Air Quality manager Sue Billings, Klickitat's Jeff Martin said, “Everything that the Air Quality Program staff did for our county was awesome! Emails went back and forth before 8:00 in the morning to allow my office to send out air advisories to the schools and hospitals before the day began. Phone calls were made during the weekend when the air quality reached unhealthy levels and more advisories had to be issued. To sum it up, I couldn't be happier with the level of response I received from your office, Greg Hannahs, and Stan Rauh.”

Ecology was planning to bring the monitor to Goldendale in October to begin a yearlong study to help classify the area’s air quality.

“The Satus Pass fire sped up our move to Klickitat County,” said Sean Hopkins, an air quality specialist in Yakima. “We’re glad we were able to mobilize on such short notice and give Goldendale residents real-time information that can help them make choices to improve their quality of life.”

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