Smoke from Sumner Grade Fire causes poor air quality in Sumner, Bonney Lake

Communities all along the Puget Sound experienced poor air quality on Friday due to heavy smoke from recent wildfires in Washington, Oregon and California. 

The Sumner and Bonney Lake communities have been dealing with the thick haze all week as firefighters continue efforts putting out the Sumner Grade Fire. Some people who live in the area said the smoke is causing symptoms like itchy eyes and trouble breathing.

On Saturday, Bonney Lake Police downgraded the area east of Myers Road to a Level 2 evacuation notice, allowing many residents to return to their homes. Crews worked to contain the Sumner 50% and approximately 800 acres burned in the Sumner-Bonney Lake area overnight.

On a clear day, places across Pierce County have some of the best views of Mount Rainier. On Friday, however, it was hard to see trees through the heavy smoke.

“You don’t want to be out in this,” said Jodi Nylon, a vendor at Inta Vintage, an antique shop in Sumner.

Many people were not outdoors in the haze, especially in communities surrounding the Sumner Grade Fire. Nylon said she noticed a dramatic drop in foot traffic.

“I have a feeling that the smoke has impacted business. I mean, they told everybody to stay home and stay indoors. So, I’m thinking people are heading that warning because usually Friday’s here are pretty busy,” said Nylon.

Under the Safe Start Washington plan, “personal provider” businesses like salons, boutiques and spas were advised to keep doors open to increase ventilation during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, several businesses in the South Sound closed their doors because the air was just too thick.

“The air quality, yeah, it is really hard to breathe,” said Andrea Gilner, owner of Andrea’s Hair Salon near Lake Tapps.

Gilner just got back to work after having to reschedule two days worth of appointments. She evacuated her home from the Sumner Grade Fire.

“It was really scary. It’s been really stressful packing up some stuff,” said Gilner.

She’s trying to make up for lost time and keep the smoke out by shutting all doors and windows, and running fans to keep the clean air circulating.

“We’re going to have to get some air filters probably and just keep the air breathable because it’s not good to breathe that in,” said Gilner.

Extra air filters are good to have in smoke events for any home or business. The Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department said people should create a clean air room for health and safety.

“One room that you can stay in all day long if there is a smoke event. And you really want to limit going in and out that room so you want to have snacks water available have some movies or a 500 piece puzzle or something to keep you entertained in that room,” said Judy Olsen of the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department.

The health department also encouraged people not to pollute their clean indoor air. Officials suggest avoiding candles, incense, fireplaces, gas stoves and frying food. They also advise against vacuuming as that could stir up dust and smoke particles.