Oregon Smoke Information

Map Notes:

The map above shows active fires and air quality monitors around the state. Round icons represent permanent air quality monitors, triangular icons represent temporary smoke monitors (when deployed).

Monday, October 21, 2019

Oregon’s vacation from wildfire smoke

Oregon's Air Quality Index showed good air quality much of summer 2019.
After two record-breaking seasons, Oregon saw a much-needed reprieve from wildfire smoke this summer.

The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality issued only one air quality advisory this year due to wildfire smoke. The advisory was for the area downwind of the Milepost 97 Fire in southwest Oregon, and lasted only a week.

By contrast: in both 2017 and 2018, wildfire smoke inundated Oregon communities off and on for months. DEQ issued and reissued air quality advisories for much of the state throughout the summer. Smoke flowed into communities from fires burning across the Pacific Northwest, California and British Columbia. Southern and Central Oregon were the hardest hit parts of the state, but the Portland area also experienced smoke like never before.

At one point in August 2018, all but two Oregon counties were under an air quality advisory due to unhealthy levels of wildfire smoke.

But this year was different. The Oregonian recently reported it was “the Oregon wildfire season that wasn’t” and KATU published data from the Northwest Interagency Coordination Center showing a much subdued wildfire season compared to previous years.

“This year was comparatively cooler and wetter,” said Evan Bing, DEQ air quality meteorologist. “We were also not as heavily impacted by large regional smoke plumes being transported into the area, like from British Columbia in 2017 and 2018.”

As for next year? Only time will tell.

In the meantime, communities should still be on the lookout this fall for smoke from controlled burns. New rules implemented last spring allow some smoke from prescribed burns to enter communities for short periods of time.

Check the Oregon Department of Forestry’s daily plans report to see locations of prescribed burns, and monitor air quality conditions on DEQ’s Air Quality Index online or on the free OregonAir smartphone app.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

This autumn may see more controlled burns in Oregon

Cool, rainy weather across much of the state has allowed the first controlled burns to be lit in parts of Oregon. New rules governing smoke may allow more of these burns than in the past. Oregon Department of Forestry officials believe increasing the amount of burning will help landowners reduce the public safety risk from the buildup of fuels in forests, and improve forest health.

Known as prescribed fires, these regulated burns are lit when weather conditions will minimize smoke getting into smoke-sensitive receptor areas (SSRAs) and Class I wilderness areas, such as Crater Lake National Park. According to ODF records, out of 2,964 units burned in 2018 only 18 – about half of one percent – resulted in smoke entering an SSRA.

Although forest landowners with permits may be burning in certain areas, the public should know that fire season may still be in effect where they live or camp, so check first before lighting backyard debris piles or making a campfire.

"The prescribed burns the public may see in coming weeks are done only when weather conditions are favorable for burning. We look to burn on days where air movement will disperse the smoke so public health is protected,” said Nick Yonker, smoke management meteorology manager at the Oregon Department of Forestry

New rules implemented this spring still require that burners not exceed federal air quality standards for particulate matter from smoke. But they no longer classify small amounts of smoke entering an SSRA as an intrusion.

“The old standard used to be zero visible smoke in an SSRA,” said Yonker. “This made it difficult to burn brush near populated areas, the very places where burning built-up woody fuels would improve public safety the most.”

Yonker expects that burners will now be more confident about starting burns when conditions are reasonable rather than only when they are perfect. “If the weather cooperates, a conservative estimate is that we might get from 10 percent to 20 percent more burning done than last fall.”

Yonker added that ODF is also educating forest landowners about the benefits of covering debris piles. “Our research has shown that woody piles covered with polyethylene sheets produce far less smoke than uncovered wet piles, which tend to smolder. So burners can burn more piles without adding to the overall volume of smoke,” he said. “An added benefit is that landowners can burn covered piles later into the rainy season, since they stay dry enough to burn compared to uncovered piles soaked by rain.”

Last year, controlled fires were set on 185,702 acres out of Oregon’s more than 30 million forested acres. That was about 16,000 acres above the 10-year annual average of 169,779 acres burned. Estimates are that those fires burned almost 1.3 million tons of woody debris.

The weeks just before heavy fall rains set in are considered ideal for burning, since those rains and colder temperatures reduce the chance a burn will reignite and start a wildfire. To learn if a controlled burn is planned in your area, visit the Daily Burn Plans page on ODF’s website at http://www.odf.state.or.us/DIVISIONS/protection/fire_protection/Daily/rptDailyPlans7A.pdf

Friday, September 6, 2019

Prineville sees fluctuating levels of smoke from nearby prescribed fire

The Canyon 66 Prescribed Fire in the Ochoco National Forest caused some fluctuating moderate to unhealthy levels of smoke in Prineville this week.

Find local health recommendations from Crook County Health Department.

Find more information about the prescribed burn from Central Oregon Fire.

Smoke levels can fluctuate rapidly, check current conditions on DEQ’s Air Quality Index or by downloading the free Oregon Air app on your smartphone. 

DEQ Air Quality Index reading from Sept. 6, 2019, 12:06 p.m.

Friday, August 9, 2019

Smoke forecast for southwest Oregon: Updated August 9

 SW Oregon Smoke Forecast

Smoke forecast outlooks are issued in areas where smoke from wildland fires may be of concern and Air Resource Advisors have been deployed. Outlooks are issued under the authority and auspices of the organization or incident requesting the Air Resource Advisor.

Find the most current smoke outlook from the US Forest Service here.

Friday, August 2, 2019

DEQ lifts air quality advisory for Jackson, Josephine, Klamath, keeps in place for southern Douglas County

Aug. 2, 2019

The Oregon Department of Environmental lifted the air quality advisory for Jackson, Josephine, Klamath counties Friday, keeping it in place for southern Douglas County though the weekend.

Air quality improved dramatically in Rogue Valley late yesterday. But the area immediately around the fire—the Azalea and Glendale area—is still experiencing smoke impacts. Air quality monitors in this area are picking up smoke fluctuating between moderate to unhealthy levels.

The Grants Pass and Medford area may see some moderate smoke levels through the weekend, but air quality should generally be good.

Azalea-Glendale-Canyonville area residents may consider leaving the area for periods of time throughout the weekend. Air quality is generally good in surrounding areas.

Smoke conditions can change rapidly near wildfires, check current air quality conditions and advisories on DEQ’s Air Quality Index or by downloading the OregonAir app on a smartphone.

Media contact: Laura Gleim, DEQ public affairs specialist, gleim.laura@deq.state.or.us, 541-633-2030