The air quality index set up by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration states anything ranked between 0 and 50 is “good” quality air.
With smoke from the nearby Goat Rocks Fire settling into the valley, the air in Packwood as of Friday night stands at a 193, deemed “very unhealthy,” according to the index. The weather service is putting an air quality alert in place until midnight Saturday.
According to Ross McDowell with the Lewis County Division of Emergency Management, residents should avoid going outside unless it’s absolutely necessary, especially those who are sensitive to intolerable air such as people with asthma.
With the fire reaching 4,654 acres as of Friday, areas northeast of Butter Creek and north of U.S. Highway 12, including the Lower Timberline and Goat Rocks neighborhoods, are still at “be ready” evacuation status due to the fire while the Upper Timberline neighborhood remains at “be set” evacuation status.
During a community meeting on the fire held in Packwood on Friday night, officials gave an update on the incident with mostly positive news, including that the fire has held behind the “layers and layers of contingencies” set in place between the blaze and the nearest neighborhood of Upper Timberline, according August Isernhagen, field operations manager. Those contingencies include dozer lines and hoses. However, the smoke, they said, is not likely to lessen until after the area sees more precipitation.
Isernhagen added the smoke looks a lot worse from the town than it does from the fire lines.
Packwood fire chief Lonnie Goble said he flew over the fire recently and was encouraged by what he saw, roughly estimating that in the over 4,600 acres of forest land affected by the fire, only about 30 acres of trees had burned, with the majority of the flame hitting fuel on the ground.
“The smoke’s gonna be here a long time. So we’re gonna have to get used to it,” Goble said. “The biggest majority of the fire is away from Timberline, but there is still the possibility of a small threat. What the people that's been working on the fire lines have done in the upper Timberline is amazing. I mean, there were like six different defenses when you flew over it. … It’s unreal. They’re doing a hell of a job.”
Goble added the fire is unlikely to subside until “after the snow flies,” but officials noted that with the small percentage of trees burning, it will increase the resiliency of the landscape and make the forests near the community more fire resistant.
Overall, to a room of over 50 and at least 175 attendees viewing the meeting on Facebook, teams had positive reports for Friday’s meeting. The most notable of these was that despite working with rapidly falling trees at times, no firefighters have been killed or seriously injured during the process of fighting the Goat Rocks Fire.
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