According to new data, recent years have seen an increase in the number of acres burned by wildfires in Oregon, which has resulted in lengthier periods of poor air quality throughout the state.
According to a study by Oregon’s Department of Environmental Quality, which runs air-monitoring stations all over the state, cities in the central and southern parts of the state, including Bend, Klamath Falls, and Medford. It came close to or even broke records in 2021 for the number of smoky days deemed “unhealthy for sensitive groups,” including the elderly, pregnant women, young children, and those with lung or respiratory conditions.
For instance, last year, Klamath Falls tied its 2018 record with 38 days in the unhealthy area. According to the report, Klamath Falls has experienced an increase in the number of harmful smoking days over the previous six years, from an average of just 1.4 days per year between 1989 and 2014.
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In 1985, Oregon’s DEQ started keeping track of air quality.
According to DEQ spokesman Laura Gleim, Jacksonville and Malin are the only cities in Oregon that now fall under the unhealthy category due to smoke from the McKinney fire burning in Northern California.
As of Tuesday morning, the air quality in neighboring cities in southern Oregon, such as Medford, Ashland, and Shady Cove, is moderate.
The Potter and Windigo fires are two separate fires raging in Southern Oregon’s Umpqua National Forest. Communities east of Hills Creek Reservoir, Oregon Highway 58, Crescent Lake, and other regions north of the fire area are expected to experience smoke from these fires, according to officials at the Northwest Interagency Coordination Center, which manages fires in Oregon and Washington.
In contrast to last year, when hazardous air quality days were already being observed in central and southern Oregon, this year’s season is starting later, according to Gleim. We still have a significant portion of summer, although it’s been a milder and later season thus far.
We haven’t had any unhealthy days in central Oregon yet, but this past weekend was the first one there.
According to Gleim, as the fire season continues, the influence of smoke across the state will ultimately depend on the flames’ size, location, and prevailing winds. Only 0% of the Potter and Windigo fires have been contained. The far larger McKinney fire, which is already consuming more than 56,000 acres, shares the same characteristics.
Residents in locations with a lot of wildfire smoke are advised to stay inside as much as possible and keep their windows and doors closed by the DEQ. Gleim advises homeowners to use N-95 and P-100 masks, not cloth or surgical masks, to protect themselves from smoke if they must go outside.
After an abnormally wet spring, Portland mostly dodged smoky conditions last year and hasn’t experienced wildfire smoke this summer. In contrast, the city’s air quality during the 2020 wildfire season was at its worst, with eight days falling under the “extremely unhealthy” or “hazardous” categories. Never before had Portland experienced those heights.
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