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DEQ issues air quality advisory for Central Oregon, other areas due to wildfire smoke

Smoky Elk Lake Ann Deuchler 83
Ann Deuchler
Smoky sunset was visible over wide area of High Desert Tuesday evening, as in this view from Elk Lake
Smoky Pilot Butte sunset Robert Mozzetti 83
Robert Mozzetti
Sun sinks behind a smoke-shrouded Pilot Butte Tuesday evening, August 3

(Update: DEQ issues air quality advisory; readings still poor in C.O.)

In some spots, such as south Deschutes County -- 'very unhealthy'

PORTLAND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality issued an air quality advisory Wednesday for Southern, Central and Northeastern Oregon due to smoke from fires in Oregon and Northern California.

** Información en español **

Areas under advisory:

  • Southern Oregon: Curry, Josephine, Jackson, Klamath, Lake and Douglas counties
  • Southern Willamette Valley: Lane and Linn counties
  • Central Oregon: Deschutes, Crook and Jefferson counties
  • Northeastern Oregon: Wallowa, Baker and Union counties
  • Central Columbia River Gorge: Umatilla, Morrow, Sherman, Gilliam and Wasco counties

DEQ expects the air quality advisory to last until Friday morning. Northeastern Oregon and the Central Columbia River Gorge area may see improvements today, with fluctuating smoke through Thursday evening. Southern and Central Oregon may have unhealthy air quality through at least Friday morning.

DEQ and partner agencies will continue to monitor smoke in these areas.

Health officials advise people to refill inhalers and air out homes and businesses when smoke levels improve to moderate or healthy (yellow or green on the Air Quality Index).

Smoke levels can change rapidly depending on weather. Check current conditions on the Oregon Smoke Information Blog, DEQ’s Air Quality Index, or by downloading the free OregonAIR app on your smartphone.

Smoke can irritate the eyes and lungs and worsen some medical conditions. People most at risk include infants and young children, people with heart or lung disease, older adults and pregnant women.

Protect yourself and your family when smoke levels are high:

  • Stay inside if possible. Keep windows and doors closed.
  • Avoid strenuous outdoor activity.
  • Use high efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters in indoor ventilation systems or portable air purifiers. Or create your own air purifying filter by following these instructions.
  • Be aware of smoke in your area and avoid places with the highest levels.
  • If you have heart or lung disease or asthma, follow your healthcare provider’s advice.

Cloth, dust and surgical masks don’t protect from the harmful particles in smoke. N95 or P100 respirators approved by NIOSH may offer protection, but they must be properly fitted and worn. They won’t work for everyone, especially children. People with heart or lung conditions should consult their doctor before wearing a respirator. Get more information about protecting your health during wildfires.

In what's become a familiar August sight (not to mention smell and feel) Central Oregon was blanketed in a smoky haze Tuesday night as smoke from out-of-area wildfires settled across the High Desert, officials said.

Bend, La Pine, Sunriver and Sisters were all in the “unhealthy” air quality range and Prineville and Madras are currently in the “moderate” range.

The Central Oregon Air Quality Network map from E::SPACE is back on KTVZ.COM's weather page (below the radar), and Tuesday night, many areas were in the "unhealthy" red zone, from Crooked River Ranch to Prineville and the Bend area. It was worse -- a "very unhealthy" purple - in Sunriver and La Pine.

Much of the region remained in "unhealthy" air quality levels Wednesday morning, except Sisters, Black Butte Ranch and Camp Sherman, at "unhealthy for sensitive groups."

Two fires on the Willamette National Forest, including the now 1,700~ Middle Fork Complex and a fire in the Mt. Washington Wilderness, made runs Tuesday in continued hot and dry conditions, and much of the smoke from those fires is drifting into Central Oregon this evening.

The small fires in Central Oregon right now are the Harvey Gap Fire on the Ochoco National Forest and the Keller Springs Fire on Oregon Department of Forestry protected private lands near Opal Mountain. Both fires are under 2 acres.

The Deep Creek and Johnson Ridge fires north of Madras that broke out late last week remain 95% contained, and fire behavior is minimal.

The Central Oregon fire blog has great resources about smoke and your health. Please navigate up to the top bar to see “Smoke and Your Health” and explore the pull down menu.

You can also visit airnow.gov for real-time air quality information.

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Barney Lerten

Barney is the digital content director for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Barney here.

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