Kathy and David Warnke said they struggled with smoke for several days this week at their Parkland-area home because of brush fires on Joint Base Lewis-McChord.
“My throat hurt. My eyes burned. It was terrible,” David Warnke said.
Ash blew onto their car and their back deck along 173rd Street South, at the south end of Spanaway Lake, the couple said, though it seemed to clear up Wednesday.
They closed their windows at night, to keep out the smokey air.
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The JBLM fires might increase pollution in some isolated places near the base, the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency said, but air quality in general is good in Pierce County.
An 85-acre fire started Tuesday near the Roy Y, where state Route 7 meets state Route 507, was fully contained Wednesday, with firefighters working to put out remaining hot spots.
The fire didn’t reach any homes, but got within 100 to 200 yards of private property, base spokeswoman Catherine Caruso said.
Firefighters we not sure what started the fire.
Base officials said Wednesday that they would start doing daily water drops to help with smoke from another fire that’s been burning for a couple weeks in the Artillery Impact Area.
Crews can’t reach the fire on the ground because of unexploded ordnance.
Blazes in the artillery area aren’t unusual for the summer, and can be a good thing, Caruso said. They don’t threaten people or property, and help clear out brush, which prevents bigger fires.
But because the current blaze has produced such smokey conditions, the base scheduled breaks in morning trainings to do the daily water drops.
“They may not extinguish it completely, but I think they’re hoping they can at least tamp it down,” Caruso said.
Sometimes the base does controlled burns for environmental reasons, such as to clear out unwanted brush, Caruso said, but firefighters schedule those when the weather is expected to keep smoke away from residents.
In addition to the fires, stagnant air has affected air quality, according to the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department.
The agency recommends the following for people at risk from poor air quality, such as children, the elderly and pregnant women:
▪ Avoid physical exertion if smoke is the air.
▪ Follow doctors’ orders about medicine and asthma plans.
▪ If advised to stay inside, keep windows and doors closed.
▪ Keep the fresh-air intake for air conditioners closed, and set the unit to recirculate.
▪ Consider leaving the area during hot weather if air conditioning isn’t an option.
▪ Use a high-efficiency particulate air filter inside.
▪ Avoid tobacco products, candles, fireplaces, gas stoves and recreational fires.