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Oregon Department of Environmental Quality

News Release



Release Date: August 8, 2014



Greg Svelund, DEQ, Communications & Outreach, Bend, 541-633-2008

Larry Calkins, DEQ, Air Quality, Pendleton, 541-278-4612

Tom Sharp, Harney County Public Health Department, 541-589-2423



Air quality in Burns unhealthy due to wildfire smoke

Residents should take precautions as air quality is expected to remain poor through the weekend


Air quality in and around Burns is unhealthy due to smoke impacts from nearby wildfires, including the South Fork Complex fires. DEQ and Harney County Public Health urge people with asthma and other respiratory conditions to take precautions to protect themselves  as long as air quality remains unhealthy.

People with respiratory or heart disease, the elderly and children, are advised to stay indoors. Poor air quality conditions are a health threat and should be avoided by all residents in smoky communities. Remember, local smoke levels can rise and fall rapidly depending on weather factors, including wind direction.

During wildfire smoke events, DEQ urges residents to take the following precautions:

·         Be aware of smoke concentrations in your area and avoid the places with highest concentrations.

·         Avoid smoke either by leaving the area or protecting yourself by staying indoors, and by closing windows and doors

·         Avoid strenuous outdoor activity in smoky conditions.

·         People exposed to smoky conditions and who suffer from asthma or other respiratory problems should follow their breathing management plans or contact their healthcare providers.

·         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.

What if your community doesn’t have an air quality monitor? Monitoring locations are limited and pollution levels may be higher in some areas, especially those closer to a wildfire.

Conduct a visual assessment: People can conduct a visual assessment of nearby smoke 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. Refer to the descriptions below for more information based on how far you can see in various conditions:

Between 5-15 miles: Air quality is moderate and beginning to deteriorate, and is generally healthy, except possibly for smoke sensitive persons. The general public should avoid prolonged exposure if conditions are smoky to the point where visibility is closer to the 5 mile range.

If under 5 miles: The air quality is unhealthy for young children, adults over age 65, pregnant women, and people with heart and/or lung disease, asthma or other respiratory illness. These people should minimize outdoor activity.

If under 3 miles: The air quality is unhealthy for everyone. Young children, adults over age 65, pregnant women, and people with heart and/or lung disease, asthma or other respiratory illness should avoid all outdoor activities.

If under 1 mile: The air quality is very unhealthy, and in some cases may be hazardous. Everyone should avoid all outdoor activities.

Visit the Oregon Health Authority’s wildfire web page.

For more information on using the visibility index during wildfires, visit

For information on smoke and wildfires in Oregon, visit .