The National Weather Service has extended an air quality alert to Friday in response to regional smoke that is forecast to last the rest of the workweek.

Smoke from Western U.S. wildfires is expected to cause poor air quality ranging from moderate to hazardous, as well as low visibility.The haze is expected to last at least until Friday, when there is a chance of rain.

The smoke rolled into the Palouse this past weekend, and on Monday caused the University of Idaho, Washington State University and the Moscow School District to shut down operations.

Dr. John Brown of Gritman Medical Center in Moscow said its emergency room staff did see an increase in respiratory complaints.

However, he said it may not necessarily be all due to the smoke. For example, Brown said people often complain of respiratory issues this time of year because it is harvest season.

He said the smoke is undoubtedly a health hazard, especially for anyone with lung conditions such as asthma, emphysema and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Brown also said infants and the elderly are at risk and recommended people not engage in a lot of physical exertion outdoors.

Gritman Medical Center is advising people with questions to contact its online 24-7 clinic at

Pullman Regional Hospital’s emergency room staff did not treat anyone there because of the smoke Saturday and Sunday, but the hospital is encouraging people to stay indoors.

The NWS advises pollutants in smoke can cause burning eyes, runny nose and aggravate heart and lung diseases.

Health experts use the air quality index to measure air safety and make recommendations. The index includes a scale from 0-500, with higher numbers corresponding to poorer air quality. As of Monday afternoon, the Moscow AQI was 217 and the Pullman AQI was 167. Potlatch had the highest AQI — and thus, the poorest air on the Palouse — with a 270.

You can find more on air quality in the region at

Firefighters have continued to make progress containing local wildfires.

As of Monday morning, the 15,266-acre Babb-Malden fire that destroyed Malden and Pine City last week is 90 percent contained, according to the Northwest Interagency Incident Management Team.

Firefighters from around the state mobilized to contain the fire. On Monday evening, the incident management team turned control of the firefighting efforts back to local agencies.

Pine City-Malden Road is still closed to the public from the west side of Pine City.

The Manning Fire, which burned 2,685 acres northwest of Colfax, is also 90 percent contained and crews will continue to monitor the fire. The incident management team turned the control of the firefighting efforts back to local agencies,

The incident management team advises that the public may continue to see smoke from within the fire’s perimeter as unburned fuels ignite.

Anthony Kuipers can be reached at

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