Wildfire smoke has been an unwelcome guest in Puget Sound the past two summers, with acrid, yellow smoke polluting the air and clogging lungs. Warnings about the health risks have been issued. Seattle is setting up filtered air "breathing rooms." Mayor Jenny Durkan has declared that Seattle be "Smoke Ready" as residents are told to expect more smoke, more frequently as the climate warms and Northwest summers get hotter and drier.
But wildfire smoke is not a new thing. Indigenous people throughout the Northwest used fire as a tool for hunting and agriculture. T
Historians and foresters say accidental fires proliferated after European settlement, with blazes often ignited by pioneer hunters’ runaway campfires, steam engines on trains or logging equipment and land-clearing and timber-harvesting practices such as summer slash burns.
Accounts in journals and frontier newspapers recorded the inconvenience, fear and other impacts of wildfire smoke west of the Cascades.