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Oregon Department of Environmental Quality

News Release



Release Date: August 18, 2015



Greg Svelund, Public Affairs, Bend, 541-633-2008

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


Wildfire smoke causes poor air quality throughout Oregon

Air quality is unhealthy for sensitive population in the southwest, central, eastern and northeastern portions of Oregon


The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality and state and local health officials urge residents throughout much of Oregon to take health precautions from smoke caused by dozens of wildfires burning in and around the state. 


Air quality is unhealthy for sensitive populations in southwest Oregon, including Medford, Ashland and Shady Cove; in central Oregon, including Redmond and Sisters; in Eastern Oregon, including Ontario; in northeastern Oregon, including Baker City, La Grande and Pendleton. Smoke is also expected to accumulate to unhealthy levels in the Columbia Gorge over the next couple of days.


While DEQ’s Air Quality Index is a good resource, it’s important to remember that statewide monitoring network does not capture air quality conditions in all communities. Many smaller communities are currently experiencing unhealthy air quality, though they may not be located in close proximity to a monitor. It’s important for residents to gauge air quality conditions where they live and take appropriate actions to protect themselves.


Should smoke occur, residents can take the following precautions to avoid breathing problems or other symptoms from smoke:


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

·         You can avoid smoke  by staying indoors, closing all windows and doors and using an air filter that removes very fine particulate matter.

·         Avoid strenuous outdoor activity in smoky conditions.

·         If you have heart disease, asthma or other lung disease, or are over 65 years of age, you have a higher risk of illness from wildfire smoke. Small children and pregnant women are also at increased risk. People in any of these groups might consider leaving the area until air quality improves.

·         People suffering from asthma or other respiratory problems should follow their breathing management plans or contact their healthcare providers.


Remember, local smoke levels can rise and fall rapidly, depending on weather factors including wind direction. People can conduct a visual assessment of smoke levels to quickly get a sense of air quality levels and take precautions. If people have additional concerns, they should contact the nearest regional or local public health agency for the latest in health conditions from smoke.


Visit the Oregon Smoke Blog for more information regarding active fires and air quality, along with tools to help people assess smoke levels in their area.