Wildfire smoke forces some Pac-12 teams to alter football practice

Pac-12 football teams like the Oregon Ducks and the Washington Huskies are feeling the effects of the relentless, thick smoke from wildfires in the Cascades and eastern Washington.

As smoke continues to fill the air in the Pacific Northwest, several college football teams have been forced to alter their practices. 

Wildfires in the Cascades and eastern Washington have produced thick, relentless smoke, which has made the air hard to breathe in at times.

Doctors have been asking residents to limit their time outdoors, which is what coaches and athletic trainers have been doing with their athletes.


The Oregon Ducks football head coach Dan Lanning said that although the team had to practice inside Wednesday due to the wildfire smoke, it fared well for other aspects of the game.

"Practiced inside today because of smoke. But it was good and allowed us to get a little bit better crowd noise for some of our defensive stuff," Lanning said. "When our stadium is as crazy as it can be, right? It's hard to communicate on that side of the ball when you're out there."

In Eugene, where the Ducks practice, air quality alerts have plagued the city, and officials expect the warnings to stay in place until at least through Monday.

In the Seattle area, air quality measurements ranged from the Unhealthy to Very Unhealthy categories, with several sensors in the city's eastern suburbs measuring downright hazardous levels of smoke particulate. 

The University of Washington's football team, based in Seattle, thankfully has a road game this weekend where they will travel to Berkeley, California, to take on the Golden Bears.


Health officials are stressing that residents stay indoors when possible and limit all outdoor activity, especially strenuous activity. And even indoor activities should remain "light." Some schools in the Seattle area have either restricted or canceled outdoor after-school sports and activities or moved them indoors when possible.

Health officials studying wildfire smoke's effect on athletes say they are concerned about two specific impacts.

"First, the smoke particles are smaller than typical urban pollution, thus the smaller particles can be inhaled deeper into lung tissue," the National Federation of State High School Associations says. "Second, the increased respiratory rate during exercise increases the total volume of polluted air being inhaled over the duration of a practice or contest."

Even though rain and a pattern shift are the on the way to help alleviate some of those smoky conditions, Seattle and Portland's metro areas ranked among the worst air quality in the world on Thursday.

Relief from the wildfire smoke is on the way

major shift in the weather pattern starting Friday will usher in an extended wetter and cooler pattern across the region, not only cleaning out the smoke but dropping a significant amount of rainfall to help douse the stubborn wildfires.

Some areas in the lowlands may see 1 to 2 inches of rain by Monday, with the higher elevations of the Cascades seeing their first snowfall.


Danning and the Ducks welcome the rain, especially since Saturday's top 10 matchup verse UCLA could be a washout.


"We're prepared for that," Lanning said about the rain. "We'll see how it plays out. We don't control the weather, but we're prepared for it."

Both the Ducks (ranked No. 10) and the Bruins (ranked No. 9) have notable wins and are the only two teams left in the Pac-12 without a loss in conference play.