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Increase in wildfire smoke brings poor air quality to Umatilla County, Hazy air predicted through Wednesday

Contact Information: Umatilla County Health Department
George Murdock, Interim Director, (541) 278-5432
Sharon Waldern, Clinic Supervisor, (541) 278-5432

For Immediate Release

Umatilla County – Smoke from the South Fork Complex and the Bald Sisters Fire on the Malheur National Forest will bring smoky air to Pendleton and Hermiston areas this week. Pendleton is expected to get more smoke than Hermiston. Smoke will increase throughout the day spreading into Hermiston causing widespread haze, but then start to settle into the valleys by late evening.

“Smoke conditions can change rapidly depending on wind speed and direction, so it is important for people to monitor air quality levels throughout the day. Wildfire smoke may increase the risk of illness especially for older adults, young children, and people with asthma, respiratory, or heart conditions,” said Sharon Waldern, UCHD Clinic Supervisor. “We encourage people to limit their outdoor activities when air quality levels are moderate to unhealthy.”

Overall smoke levels will likely decline to the Moderate and Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups by this afternoon and remain in these ranges throughout the forecast period, with the exception of Western Umatilla County which should see some clearing overnight, before degrading again to moderate tomorrow. Pendleton will remain in the Moderate and Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups through Wednesday.

Tomorrow, winds will shift out of the southwest, and the fires in the Central Cascades (Logging Unit, Bear Butte, and Nene Fires) and the Columbia River Gorge (Rowena Fire) will begin bringing smoke into Hermiston by late morning. The South Fork Complex will bring smoke into Pendleton. Widespread smoke will continue for Umatilla County until about 10 pm, when the smoke starts settling into the valleys.

Wednesday will bring some relief to Hermiston as the winds over the Cascades and from the Rowena Fire will shift from the northwest, but the Pendleton will still be smoky due to smoke from the South Fork and Bald Sisters fires.

What the public can do to protect themselves from harmful wildfire smoke:
Commissioner Murdock urges county residents to take the following precautions to avoid health problems if hot, smoky conditions affect our area:
  • Be aware of smoke concentrations in your area. Residents can get the latest information by visiting the Oregon Smoke blog: or call 2-1-1 Info.
  • Avoid outdoor activities when air quality is unhealthy and hazardous. Those with heart or lung problems, as well as young children, are especially vulnerable.
  • Avoid smoke either by leaving the area or protecting yourself by staying indoors and closing all windows and doors.
  • Reduce other sources of indoor air pollution such as burning cigarettes and candles, using gas, propane, wood burning stoves and furnaces, cooking, and vacuuming.
  • Individuals with heart disease or lung diseases such as asthma should follow their health care provider’s advice about prevention and treatment of symptoms.

How healthy is the air in your community?
Check DEQ’s Air Quality Index to see real-time air monitoring data from monitors placed around Oregon.
Conduct a visual assessment: People can conduct a visual assessment of nearby conditions to quickly get a sense of air quality levels. Generally, if you can see up to 15 miles, the air quality is probably good. If you can see less than one mile, the air quality is very unhealthy and everyone should avoid outdoor activities.

For more information on using the visibility index during wildfires, visit
For information on smoke and wildfires in Oregon, visit .