Oregon Smoke Information

Map Notes:

The map above is not able to show all state air quality monitors. To see the whole set, go to the Air Quality Now tab below
and click on DEQ's Air Quality Index which will bring up a map with many additional state monitors. Round icons represent permanent state air quality monitors, triangular icons represent temporary smoke monitors (when deployed).

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Oregon Department of Environmental Quality
News Release

Release Date: August 22, 2015

Treena Jensen, NOAA Senior Meteorologist, Portland, 503-261-9248
Greg Svelund, DEQ Public Affairs, Bend, 541-647-4194
Wildfire smoke causes unhealthy air quality in greater Portland, Willamette Valley, Columbia Gorge and Northeast Oregon

The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration urge residents throughout the greater Portland area, the Columbia Gorge and Northeastern Oregon to take health precautions from smoke caused by dozens of wildfires burning in and around the state. 

Conditions will likely remain very poor overnight, possibly becoming worse, until Sunday afternoon, when winds are expected to shift and blow the smoke out of the region. The wildfire smoke may increase the risk of illness, especially for older adults, young children, and people with asthma, respiratory, or heart conditions.

Should smoke occur, residents can take the following precautions to avoid breathing problems or other symptoms from smoke:

·      Be aware of smoke concentrations in your area and avoid the places with highest concentrations.
·      You can avoid smoke  by staying indoors, closing all windows and doors and using an air filter that removes very fine particulate matter.
·      Avoid strenuous outdoor activity in smoky conditions.
·       If you have heart disease, asthma or other lung disease, or are over 65 years of age, you have a higher risk of illness from wildfire smoke. Small children and pregnant women are also at increased risk. People in any of these groups might consider leaving the area until air quality improves.
·       People suffering from asthma or other respiratory problems should follow their breathing management plans or contact their healthcare providers.

Remember, local smoke levels can rise and fall rapidly, depending on weather factors including wind direction. People can conduct a visual assessment of smoke levels to quickly get a sense of air quality levels and take precautions. If people have additional concerns, they should contact the nearest regional or local public health agency for the latest in health conditions from smoke.

Visit the Oregon Smoke Blog for more information regarding active fires and air quality, along with tools to help people assess smoke levels in their area. Check out the Air Quality Index for current conditions.


  1. Pretty outrageous that Trimet won't cancel the fireworks show in Portland, whilst a red "Unhealthy" level of smoke is already in the air. Typical of the ongoing disrespect Trimet has for human needs and community responsibility.

  2. Another stupidly written news release from DEQ. Sure, people can conduct a visual assessment of smoke levels, but how many know how. There is a protocol to it. Maybe DEQ will get around to explaining it some time after the fire season. DEQ news releases used to be helpful. Now they're just a way for a state
    employee to justify his existence.

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. Anonymous:

    DEQ does have a protocol for assessing smoke levels visually. It's called the "5-3-1 Visibility Index". It's usually mentioned in news releases, but given the urgency to make this press release, it was not included. But it is listed on the left side of this smoke blog, and on DEQ's wildfire website.

    Basically, it can be summarized as follows:

    Determine the limit of your visual range by looking for distant targets or familiar landmarks such as mountains, mesas, hills, or buildings at known distances (miles). The visual range is that point at which these targets are no longer visible. The viewing of any distance targets should be made with the sun behind you. Looking into the sun or at an angle increases the ability of sunlight to reflect off of the smoke, and thus making the visibility estimate less reliable.

    Once distance has been determined, follow this simple guide:

    If over 15 miles, the air quality is generally good.

    Between 5-15 miles, the air quality is moderate and beginning to deteriorate, and is generally healthy, except possibly for smoke sensitive persons. The general public should avoid prolonged exposure if conditions are smoky to the point where visibility is closer to the 5 mile range.

    If under 5 miles, the air quality is unhealthy for young children, adults over age 65, pregnant women, and people with heart and/or lung disease, asthma or other respiratory illness. These people should minimize outdoor activity.

    If under 3 miles, the air quality is unhealthy for everyone. Young children, adults over age 65, pregnant women, and people with heart and/or lung disease, asthma or other respiratory illness should avoid all outdoor activities.

    If under 1 mile, the air quality is very unhealthy, and in some cases may be hazardous. Everyone should avoid all outdoor activities.

    No matter how far you can see, if you feel like you are having health effects from smoke exposure, take extra care to stay inside or get to an area with better air quality. You should also see your doctor or other health professional as needed.