Wildfire Smoke Brings Record Poor Air Quality to Oregon

Where there’s smoke, there’s fire. And where there’s a record, unprecedented and historic amount of fire, well, you get the idea.

Oregon is experiencing record poor air quality from wildfire smoke across the state, according to an analysis by the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality and Lane Regional Air Protection Agency.

Oregon air reached unhealthy or hazardous levels across the state last week on the Air Quality Index (AQI) — which categorizes how clean the air is and lists associated health risks.

Dense smoke is expected to remain throughout most of Oregon until at least Thursday — and an air quality advisory from DEQ is expected to be in effect until at least then.

According to a comparison of recent and history AQI data for Portland, Eugene, Bend, Medford and Klamath Falls, all five cities exceeded previous daily records for poor air quality — even during previous wildfire seasons.

Southern Oregon has previously seen extended periods of unhealthy and very unhealthy air quality, but Medford and Klamath Falls have also set records this year. All previous records were set in September 2017.

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.

Smoke levels are fluctuating between unhealthy (red) and hazardous (maroon) for Oregon and Southwest Washington. When smoke levels are hazardous everyone needs to take steps to protect themselves.

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. They are not available in children’s sizes and are not recommended for strenuous activities.

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