Heavy smoke from wildfires in Oregon and California has reached Western Washington and is expected to linger through the weekend, making for unhealthy air conditions.

Western Washington, including the Stanwood-Camano area, is under an air quality alert through 11 a.m. Monday, according to the National Weather Service.

The nearest wildfire, the Downey Creek Fire about 17 miles east of Darrington, has grown to more than 2,400 acres as of Saturday, according to the U.S. Forest Service. The fire in the remote Glacier Peak Wilderness is sending smoke down the Stillaguamish River valley.

Air quality in Snohomish and Skagit counties was "unhealthy" or "very unhealthy" as of Saturday morning, according to the Washington's Air Quality Advisory program. The tool measures fine-particle pollution in the air that poses a health risk. 

THe forecast calls for air in the Puget Sound to remain "unhealthy" until late Sunday at the earliest.

Everyone, especially sensitive groups, should limit time spent outdoors, avoid strenuous outdoor activities, and choose light indoor activities, according to the state Department of Ecology.

Sensitive groups include those with asthma, diabetes, heart and lung diseases, respiratory illnesses and colds, stroke survivors, pregnant women, smokers, those younger than 18 and those older than 65. 

Breathing wildfire smoke can cause coughing and wheezing, watery or dry eyes, phlegm, throat and sinus irritation, headaches, shortness of breath, irregular heartbeat and chest pain.

Conditions are expected to worsen during overnight hours. 

Air quality is expected to slowly start to improve throughout Western Washington on Sunday, according to the Washington Smoke Blog, a partnership between state, county, federal agencies and tribes. 

The Northwest Clean Air Agency has called for an air quality burn ban — which is separate from fire safety burn bans — in Skagit, Island and Whatcom counties to reduce additional smoke throughout the region.

During the ban, recreational fires, including campfires and those in fire pits, and residential and agricultural burning, are prohibited. Home heating within fireplaces and uncertified wood stoves is also banned.

— Reporter Jacqueline Allison: jallison@skagitpublishing.com, 360-416-2145, Twitter: @Jacqueline_SVH

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