Smoke Outlook Improves Dramatically for Willamette Valley

Air quality in the Willamette Valley has improved dramatically after a week of heavy smoke — providing welcomed relief to thousands enduring other fallout from the wildfires that have ravaged the area — and this trend is expected to continue throughout Saturday and into Sunday.

Coastal areas and the entire Willamette Valley are seeing much-needed relief from the dense smoke impacts, with particulate levels rated in the “good” to “moderate” range throughout Saturday. Clear skies will be visible from Eugene to Salem and Portland.

Pockets of moderate air quality zones may linger as smoke continues to lift.

Air quality levels show dramatic improvement this weekend in these Silverton-based readings.

Fire activity on the Riverside, Beachie Creek, Lionshead and Holiday Farm fires has slowed significantly, officials said Saturday morning, with small pockets of heat along the fireline where crews are working.

Friday’s cooler temperatures and precipitation helped firefighters’ efforts — though incident commanders predicted the much-anticipated rains would not be a “fire-ending event.”

Despite much of the fire area receiving a quarter-inch of rain or more, the fire remains active in deep layers of needles on the forest floor, stumps, logs, and standing dead trees. ­

“Rain doesn’t do much to put out the fire unless we get a lot of it,” said Incident Commander Alan Sinclair. “But the good news is the cool, damp weather is moderating fire activity and giving us a chance to make progress in containment efforts.”

Hand crews and dozers continue to construct and connect firelines on the west and north sides of the fire. On the east and south sides of the fire, firefighters are using existing roads outside the wilderness area as the safest, most effective opportunities to limit the fire’s spread in the remote, rugged terrain.

The Riverside Fire remains the No. 1 priority in the Northwest Geographic Area, and additional resources continue to arrive. Firefighters are working with nearby incident management teams to share resources where they are needed most.

The human-caused Riverside Fire in Clackamas County has covered 137,865 acres and is now at 11% containment.

The Department of Environmental Quality’s Air Quality Advisory for non-coastal areas of the state remains in effect.

Smoke levels can change rapidly depending on weather. Check current conditions by visiting the Oregon Smoke Information blog, downloading the free OregonAIR app on your smartphone, or going to on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s AirNow.

Smoke can irritate the eyes and lungs and worsen some medical conditions. Young children, adults over 65, pregnant women and people with heart disease, asthma or other respiratory conditions are most at risk.

DEQ’s color-coded Air Quality Index provides current air quality conditions and ranks air quality as follows: Green is good. Yellow is moderate. Orange is unhealthy for sensitive groups such as children, seniors, pregnant women and those with respiratory conditions. Red is unhealthy for everyone. Purple is very unhealthy for everyone. Maroon is hazardous.

Health officials encourage people to open up windows and begin clearing out their indoor air once smoke levels have dropped into moderate (yellow) and good (green) categories.

Protect your health when smoke levels are high:

– Avoid outdoor activities and stay inside if possible. Keep windows and doors closed.

– Use high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters. These can be portable filters or can be installed in indoor heating, ventilation, cooling and air purification systems. You can also make your own.

– Check with your local health department or this 211 list to see if they have community clean air shelters set up where people can get temporary relief from the smoke.

– If you have heart or lung disease or asthma, follow your healthcare provider’s advice.

– Consider leaving the area if smoke levels are hazardous and you have heart disease, asthma or other respiratory conditions. Otherwise, please wait to be directed to evacuate. Pay attention to evacuation notices.

– Cloth, dust and surgical masks don’t protect from the harmful particles in smoke. N95 respirators that are tested to ensure proper fit and that are worn correctly may provide protection. Otherwise, they might just provide a false sense of security.

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