Yesterday, Matt did some research into air conditioners, fans and air filtration. At this point, A/C units seem like too inefficient an option; expensive to operate, only able to cool small areas, not really compatible with the arrangement of our apartment (an open floor plan and very few windows that actually open). Fans... work well enough for us to sleep, but with windows closed they are just circulating the hot air; we had fans running in both bedrooms last night, and both rooms held steady at 83 degrees all night.
One of the fires closest to town (although still more than an hour's drive away) grew by more than 14,000 acres yesterday, and that's just one of the more than 200 fires actively burning across the state right now; we're not likely to see an end to the smoke for a while, not without a whole lot of rain. Our Air Quality Index is now a solid Unhealthy, and I'm starting to feel it in the back of my throat, a dry scratchiness that has me being extra careful to keep Kit and Little Bear out of the smoke.
Matt and Little Bear built two window air filters yesterday afternoon out of box fans and two layers of A/C filters, first a standard filter to block dust and large particulates, then a very fine filter for the smoke. They have been working pretty well, bringing in cooler air but keeping out the smoke. This morning the smoke outside is visibly heavier, and some is getting in around the edges... Running the air cleaner in the middle of the living room seems to be filtering out most of the smoke that's getting in, so I'm keeping Kit on the far side of the air cleaner.
The sheet hanging over the doorway, combined with the strong pull of the fan, works startlingly well to block the smoke.
This afternoon we'll put one fan/filter unit in Little Bear's bedroom window, move the air cleaner into the room, and then close the door and hope to get the room cool enough for him to sleep with the window closed tonight. It's unfortunate that we can't run the fan/filters at night, because the air is coolest then, but we live in Alaska—it's sunny all night! The window shades have to be closed.
Apparently there is a "dense smoke advisory" in effect until noon today, so hopefully it will lessen after noon?
Oh, one other fun wrench in everything: We learned yesterday that due to the extreme fire danger, the burn ban encompassing most of the state has been expanded to include charcoal grills, among other things. We'd intended to grill all week, to avoid heating up the house because we can't cool it back down! Sometime today we're going to run over to my parents' house so Matt can cook a bunch of chicken on their (gas) grill, and I'll work on finding cold chicken meal ideas. Suggestions would be welcome! So far all I can come up with is chicken salad.
There are possible thunderstorms in the forecast for tomorrow, and more over the weekend; pray that they bring lots of rain, and that lightening doesn't start any more fires!