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Oregon Department of Environmental Quality
News Release

Release Date: August 22, 2015

Treena Jensen, NOAA Senior Meteorologist, Portland, 503-261-9248
Greg Svelund, DEQ Public Affairs, Bend, 541-647-4194
Wildfire smoke causes unhealthy air quality in greater Portland, Willamette Valley, Columbia Gorge and Northeast Oregon

The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration urge residents throughout the greater Portland area, the Columbia Gorge and Northeastern Oregon to take health precautions from smoke caused by dozens of wildfires burning in and around the state. 

Conditions will likely remain very poor overnight, possibly becoming worse, until Sunday afternoon, when winds are expected to shift and blow the smoke out of the region. The wildfire smoke may increase the risk of illness, especially for older adults, young children, and people with asthma, respiratory, or heart conditions.

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. Check out the Air Quality Index for current conditions.