Our Agency in Action - Climate-related Change Topic

Wildfire Events That Affected Health

During the summer of 2014, the Washington State Department of Health offered assistance to public water systems and large on-site systems in areas affected by wildfires. The town of Pateros in Okanogan County was evacuated, the water system lost power, its telemetry was damaged, the system was de-pressurized, and the reservoir was empty.

The Methow Valley was without power, and we were unable to contact system owners and operators. We worked through county and state emergency operations centers and the news media to notify returning residents to boil their water until further notice. We assisted operators with start-up procedures and next steps before boil-water advisories were lifted.

During the September 2012 wildfires, there were about 350 additional hospitalizations due to breathing problems, including asthma, compared to the previous year. Within the counties of Chelan, Douglas, Kittitas and Okanogan, there were about 3,500 additional student absences compared to the previous year.