Air quality today via

Little hazy in Eureka today, eh? Your Lost Coast Outpost was startled from his slumber early this morning by the faint smell of smoke, and we can’t imagine we were the only ones.

As of this writing the air carries that tang — one more common to the summer than the fall, and to the inland regions of the state than to our coastline, where the blessed AC that is the Pacific Ocean generally purifies the environment 24/7.

Why is this? Well, it’s a combination of a slash burn up in the Elk River watershed and some uncooperative weather, which sent the smoke down into the bay rather than out in a different direction, where it was supposed to go.

Reached by telephone this morning, Debra Harris, the burn program officer for the North Coast Unified Air Quality Management District, rended garments and fell on her sword with the most anguished apology this reporter has ever encountered in more than two decades of reporting on Humboldt County governmental entities.

Harris immediately said she was the one who authorized the Elk River burn permit, and nearly as immediately took sole blame for the fact that the winds weren’t blowing as strongly as had been forecast. She reiterated and adumbrated on this theme for the length of a 15-minute conversation with a somewhat befuddled reporter, who had only called to ask if she knew where the smoke was coming from.  Harris ran down all the equipment and technology she uses to decide whether to issue a burn permit of this scale, and explained that the weather just did not behave as expected.

“We did everything we could,” Harris said. “And I came to work this morning, I said, ‘Oh boy.’”

All this is to say: The smoke is coming from a logging slash fire on Elk River, and Debra Harris — a good egg who takes her job seriously — is very deeply sorry.

The smoke should lift soon.