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Alaska Airlines said Monday that it would suspend flights to and from Portland, Oregon and Spokane, Washington as smoke from the raging wildfires has limited the airline’s operations. The suspension was expected to last until at least 3 p.m. local time on Tuesday.
Flights have largely continued uninterrupted across the West Coast during the wildfires, with most cancellations occurring at smaller airports directly in the path of the fires.
However, Alaska said heavy smoke conditions and poor air quality are affecting its ability to work safely.
“Across the West, fires are creating thick smoke and haze, causing very poor air quality conditions in the Portland and Spokane areas,” the airline said in a statement. “We made the difficult decision to stop our operation so that our employees and guests can remain safe.”
The airline, along with its regional carrier Horizon Air, have also canceled flights at numerous smaller airports including Eugene, Medford, and Redmond-Bend in Oregon, and Pasco and Walla Walla in Washington.
Portland, however, is the largest airport to see service interrupted during the latest fires. Alaska has the most flights at the airport, and so far, no other airlines have canceled flights to the city. Flight schedules have already been largely reduced due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Improving weather conditions in the coming days could begin to dissipate smoke in Portland and Spokane,” the airline said. “However, other airports in the West could be impacted by drifting smoke.”
Wildfires have rapidly spread across the Northwest after a summer of record-breaking heat waves and dry winds.
Fires in Oregon and California have burned through an area larger than the entire state of Connecticut, according to USA Today, and have led to scores of mandatory evacuations. Air quality has been affected as far away as New York as smoke from the various wildfires has spread.