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Central Oregon’s smoky air quality gets a bit better


The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality recorded Tuesday’s air quality in Central Oregon as “moderate,” meaning there’s still some smoke in the air, but not as bad as it has been in recent days.

The DEQ’s automated instruments recorded Monday’s air quality level in Central Oregon at “unhealthy for sensitive groups” — which in turn was a bit better than weekend readings of unhealthy for everyone, but still affecting many people, especially those with respiratory issues.

On Monday, the usually beautiful scenic view from the summit of Pilot Butte was hidden behind a shroud of gray smoke.

“They told me that it would be beautiful,” said 14-year old Laurene Benayoun, who was visiting with her family from France.

The lack of visibility was a disappointment for many.

“It’s really sad, because usually when we come up on this butte we can see all the mountains. But today we can’t, because of the smoke,” said 14-year old Ryan Skinner from Seattle.

Instead of mountains, thick smoke as far as the eye can see. (Portland and the Willamette Valley had a similar bout of thick smoke over the weekend, but a weekend wind shift cleared their skies — unlike ours.)

“It’s like allergies,” said Bend resident Matt Hartney. “I try not to go outside and do too much when it’s like this.”‘

Symptoms range from a runny nose amd a scratchy throat to itchy eyes. Currently there is no complete relief in sight.

“I don’t really see anything in the forecast that’s going to help be real favorable to us here,” said Shannon Evans with the U.S. Forest Service.

Between the County Line 2 Fire near Warm Springs and the Canyon Creek Fire near John Day, Central Oregonians are surrounded by wildfires.

“It doesn’t happen that often that you see those fires surround us like they do now,” Evans said.

There are large active wildfires to our south, north and east.

“(You have to) wait it out,” Hartney said.

Until then, the smoke is a reminder the fight on the many fire lines in our region continues.

“They’re not directly in your backyard, but the smoke tells you there are large fires around the area,” Evans said.

To track the latest air quality readings, visit the DEQ Air Quality Index page.

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