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Air Quality

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Wildfires and air quality

Wildfires are unpredictable and can quickly send smoke into Oregon communities. This page includes tools to help you track wildfire smoke in your area, along with information about the health risks associated with elevated smoke levels.

Wildfire Response Protocol

In response to the 2012 wildfire season, DEQ participated in a task force to review roles and duties of state and federal agencies in Oregon that respond to wildfires. The task force was specifically concerned about the public health risk from severe smoke impacts. It produced the Oregon Wildfire Response Protocol for Severe Smoke Episodes presented here. The protocol describes the role of each agency during severe wildfire smoke events, and how agencies can better work together to increase safety and protect public health. The protocol also lists resources to track wildfire activity and air quality. It reviews the current evidence regarding the health effects of wildfire smoke. It also suggests possible interventions to protect the public based on the intensity and expected duration of smoke exposure. The protocol is provided as a guide for response to major wildfires. It is not intended to limit any action taken by a public agency in the course of performing its official duties.

After the 2013 wildfire season, the task force met again to review the response to the major wildfires that occurred that summer, and identified several improvements to the protocol. The protocol was updated in June 2014 and is available by clicking the above link.

For further information or questions about this protocol, please contact Brian Finneran at DEQ Headquarters in Portland 503-229-6278, or Larry Calkins at the DEQ Eastern Region 541-278-4612.

Wildfire news

  • Northwest Interagency Coordination Center's fire map: Information on fires across the Northwest. Click on fire icons for detailed information about each fire.
  • Tracking current wildfires: Department of Forestry's Wildfire Blog with up-to-date information on wildfires in Oregon.
  • Oregon Smoke Blog: Provides additional information on current wildfires in Oregon, including links to various agency websites. During periods of high wildfire activity, this blog can be a source of information on wildfire status, air quality conditions, smoke forecasts, school and activity closures, burn bans, location of clean air shelters, and travel restrictions due to visibility.

Assessing smoke levels near you

  • Hourly air quality data: DEQ measures air quality at monitors across the state. People located near a monitor can use this information to obtain the most recent information on smoke levels.
  • Air Quality Index Map: This page shows the location of DEQ air quality monitoring stations throughout Oregon.
  • Using visibility to estimate health effects: If you do not live in a community with an air quality monitor or smoke moves in quickly, you can estimate local air quality visually and take the appropriate precautions.
  • Air quality ratings: This chart describes the health risk rating of different smoke levels. It includes information on how DEQ classifies smoke levels for 24-hour, eight-hour and hourly exposure.

Wildfire smoke and your health

Smoke is made up of primarily small particles, gases and water vapor, with trace amounts of hazardous air pollutants. The most harmful are the small particles, or particulate matter smaller than 2.5 micrometers in diameter (100 micrometers is the diameter of a human hair). These particles can be inhaled deeply into the lungs, damaging lung tissue and causing respiratory and cardiovascular problems.

Wildfire can be a significant source of air pollution in Oregon and can pose a major health risk. Symptoms from short-term smoke exposure can range from scratchy throat, cough, irritated sinuses, headaches, runny nose and stinging eyes. Persons with asthma, emphysema, congestive heart disease and other existing medical conditions can have more serious reactions. The elderly and children are also high-risk groups

More information

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For more information about Air Quality call 503-229-5359 or email.

Oregon Department of Environmental Quality
Headquarters: 811 SW Sixth Ave., Portland, OR 97204-1390
Phone: 503-229-5696 or toll free in Oregon 1-800-452-4011
Oregon Telecommunications Relay Service: 1-800-735-2900  FAX: 503-229-6124

The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality is a regulatory agency authorized to protect Oregon's environment by
the State of Oregon and the Environmental Protection Agency.

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