This story was produced through a partnership with EarthFix, an environmental journalism collaboration of public media in the Pacific Northwest. It’s part of “Breathing Fire,” a series of research reports and journalism features by Climate Central. The work has received support from the Bill Lane Center for the American West at Stanford University. Read the report.
Ask anyone who lived in Washington’s Wenatchee Valley in 2012 about the smoke that year, and they’ll remember. The fires were close and the valley’s dry hillsides trapped the wildfire smoke. It was so bad clinics and drug stores ran out of masks. The air was so choked with smoke that summer camps were canceled and children were kept inside.
Anastazia Burnett won’t forget that summer. More than once, asthma attacks drove her to the walk-in clinic for emergency treatment. At the time, she was newly pregnant with her first child.
It was scary, she remembers, “because, when your blood oxygen is low, your baby’s blood oxygen is low, too.”
Climate change is advancing. Snowpack is decreasing, and summers are hotter and drier. A century’s worth of fire suppression is leaving forests overloaded with fuel. All of that is