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DEQ's wildfire trends report shows more unhealthy air quality days for longer stretches

Anyone who’s lived in Oregon for more than a few years, knows wildfire smoke has gotten worse in recent summers. But just how much worse may be surprising.

A new report on wildfire smoke trends from the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality  -- “Wildfire Smoke Trends and Associated Health Risks: Bend, Klamath Falls, Medford and Portland - 1985 to 2018” -- shows that as wildfires grow in size and frequency, so do the amount of days where air quality is “unhealthy for sensitive groups” or worse. There are also more unhealthy, very unhealthy and hazardous days than in the past. That means air quality is unhealthy – or worse – for everyone, not just those in sensitive groups like pregnant women, children, the elderly and those with respiratory conditions.

Not surprisingly, the most significant impacts from fires are in Southern Oregon.

Here are some of the report’s key findings:

·     Between 1987 and 2014, Bend had five unhealthy days. From 2015 to 2018, Bend has had 13 unhealthy days. In 2017, Bend had three “very unhealthy” days for the first time since monitoring started in 1987.
·     Klamath Falls had 22 “unhealthy” days before 2015 and had 35 “unhealthy” days between 2015 and 2018. Klamath Falls had two “very unhealthy” days before 2015 and four between 2015 and 2018.
·     Medford had 18 “unhealthy” days between 1985 and 2014 and had 38 between 2015 and 2018. Medford had nine “very unhealthy” days between 1985 and 2014, mostly in 1987. From 2015 to 2018 Medford had seven. Medford had one “hazardous” day in 1987 and did not have another one until 2017.
·     Portland had no “unhealthy” days between 1985 and 2014 and had five from 2015 to 2018.

Read the full report.