Air Quality Slips To 'Unhealthy' Levels Due To Wildfire Smoke

By OPB staff (OPB)
Portland, Oregon Aug. 22, 2015 6:30 p.m.

Wind brought smoke from wildfires burning in Washington state to the Portland metro area Saturday morning. OPB received dozens of photos on Twitter of what the sky looks like around Oregon and Southwest Washington:

[slideshow: smoky-skies-in-oregon,left,55d8d77c89a219007a0119ed]


Portland Fire & Rescue said it received numerous calls from residents reporting smoke in the area.  Smoke is expected to increase throughout the day as winds travel approximately 26 miles per hour from east to west.

The smoke has blown from the Cougar Creek Fire near Mt. Adams, and the 12 other large fires burning east of the Washington Cascades.

"It really is just from the Washington fires. It's pushing down the Cascades, funneling through the Gorge and into the Portland metro area," said Carole Connolly, a spokeswoman for the Northwest Interagency Coordination Center. NICC  is the agency that coordinates wildland firefighting efforts across the region.


Wildfires have been active in the region for 67 consecutive days with 43 currently active wildfires across Oregon and Washington. More than 875,000 acres are burning across the Northwest.

The National Weather Services says smoke will linger in the Portland metro area throughout the weekend. It issued a Red Flag Warning. The warning was in effect until 11 p.m. Saturday. The wind will gradually shift east Sunday.

The Environmental Protection Agency reports that air in the Portland metro area is unhealthy. Air quality in areas of Eastern Oregon is also categorized as unhealthy due to heavy smoke from nearby wildfires.  Late Saturday afternoon, the air quality had been classified as 'very unhealthy' in and around Portland.

The Department of Environmental Quality advises that people take the following precautions:

  • Be aware of smoke concentrations in your area and avoid places with the highest concentrations.
  • Avoid smoke, either by leaving the area or protecting yourself by staying indoors, closing all windows and doors, and using a filter in your heating/cooling system that removes very fine particulate matter.
  • Avoid strenuous outdoor activity in smoky conditions. Those with heart or lung problems, as well as young children, are especially vulnerable.
  • People suffering from asthma or other respiratory problems should follow their breathing management plans or contact their healthcare providers.

And, if you are experiencing symptoms and cannot avoid going outdoors, wear an N-95 respirator mask (a model designed to filter at least 95 percent of fine particles in the air.) Paper "comfort" or "dust" masks found at hardware stores are inadequate, and do not filter out the fine particles in smoke that can harm your lungs.

What does the sky look like where you are?