Photo by Natalie Johnson
Three semi trucks delivered 2,000 Instant Air Purifiers and 2,000 replacement filters to the Winthrop Barn Tuesday morning.
Two thousand Instant Air Purifiers are waiting to be distributed at the Winthrop Barn.

Inspired by an executive’s affinity for the Winthrop area and national coverage of the Methow’s near-apocalyptic air quality conditions, the Instant Brands company, known for its popular Instant Pot, is donating 2,000 of its large-sized HEPA air purifiers to the Methow Valley.

On Tuesday (Aug. 17), three semi-trucks arrived from California and unloaded the filters at the Winthrop Barn.

“Their [Instant’s] vice president of marketing contacted me and she used to live here in the Northwest and she’s familiar with the area of Winthrop and the Methow Valley and they just felt so sad about everything that was happening to us between the fire and the smoke,” Winthrop Mayor Sally Ranzau said of the Instant Brands initiative.

The purifiers will be distributed by the Town of Winthrop, Okanogan County Emergency Management and Clean Air Methow from noon to 7 p.m. on Wednesday (Aug. 18) and Thursday (Aug. 19) at the Winthrop Barn. Every household and business in the Methow Valley, including Pateros, is eligible to receive an air purifier and one replacement filter at no cost.

“It’s exciting that there’s a corporation out there so generous that they would do this for our community,” Ranzau said.

The give-away will be a drive-through, no-contact event. Recipients must bring a proof of address, such as a utility bill or driver’s license.

Groups including Aero Methow Rescue Service, The Cove, Methow at Home, Room One, the Methow Valley School District, Okanogan County Fire District 6, the Pateros School District and the Town of Pateros will also help distribute the units.

If a person can’t make it to an event, they can give their proof of address to a friend to pick up a unit for them. Another pick-up event will be scheduled in Pateros at a later date.

When Chicago-based Instant Brands originally reached out directly to Ranzau, the Winthrop mayor said she wasn’t sure the tiny town could use 2,000 purifiers. She called Liz Walker, director of Clean Air Methow, and Okanogan County Emergency Management for advice.

“I cried, I literally cried when Sally called me,” Walker said.

North Valley Lumber donated staff time and a forklift and Ace Hardware donated a pallet jack to help with unloading 2,000 Instant Air Purifiers and 2,000 replacement filters at the Winthrop Barn Tuesday.

‘Cadillac’ model

Clean Air Methow is part of the Methow Valley Citizens Council, and is focused on preventing negative health outcomes from poor air quality — either from wildfires in the summer or wood stoves in the winter. The organization has given away makeshift filters constructed with a box fan and a flat air filter, which work well, but Walker described the Instant purifier as the “Cadillac” model.

Instant is donating its AP300 model, the largest it sells. The device is designed to filter air in spaces up to 388 square feet five times per hour, or an 1,850-square-foot space once an hour. The devices are advertised to clean 99.9% of viruses, dust, smoke pollen and allergens out of the indoor air, according to Instanthome.com.

“Clean indoor air is our No. 1 intervention for reducing exposure for people,” Walker said. “I’m just so aware of how many people are suffering throughout our smoke.”

On Friday (Aug. 13), air quality in Twisp was listed as “very unhealthy” by the state Department of Ecology, while air in Winthrop was even worse, listed as “hazardous,” with an air quality index of 302.

With the 2,000 purifiers and replacement filters, the devices should be enough to serve what Walker estimates is one-third of buildings in the Methow Valley. The purifiers retail for $240 with another $60 for filters, she said, making this a $600,000 donation at retail value.

“At the very least to know you can walk inside your house and breathe easily,” Walker said. “I think that can go a really long way to easing the intense stress of summers like this.”

The replacement filters should last through 2023, and by then Walker hopes to have a plan to help replace them.