News Release

For release: Sept. 27, 2012

William Knight, DEQ Communications and Outreach, Portland, 503-229-5680; Cell: 503-757-1889

Threat of Elevated Smoke Levels in Several Oregon Communities Will Continue Until Wildfires Halted

The Pole Creek fire continues to send smoke into Sisters and surrounding areas while Hood River and surrounding areas in the Columbia River Gorge are also seeing smoke from nearby wildfires

UPDATE 9/28/12: DEQ's Air Quality Index and Wildfire Air Quality Index recorded "moderate" levels of smoke pollution in the Portland Metro area and portions of the Willamette Valley. This trend could continue as wildfires in the Columbia Gorge and near Sisters continue to burn and weather patterns push smoke into these areas. The U.S. Forest Service is expected to set up a mobile air quality monitor in Hood River today.


DEQ is urging Oregonians to take precautions during smoke events until the threat of wildfire smoke has subsided. People with respiratory or heart disease, the elderly and children should remain indoors and consult their healthcare providers if they have concerns.


Keep an eye on the AQI!


DEQ’s online air quality index can provide real-time information about smoke levels and other pollutants. DEQ’s website also features a special wildfire air quality index that provides real-time air quality ratings for smoke events.


Interested in seeing the trends in air quality related to wildfires? View hourly concentrations of wildfire smoke on DEQ's website. From the drop down menu select the station you'd like to view. You can convert the raw values provided at the end of each hour to corresponding health ratings by viewing the Wildfire Health Rating Scale. A link to the scale is provided on the left sidebar of the web page.


Smoke concentration levels can rise and fall rapidly, depending on weather factors including wind direction. DEQ’s monitors are in fixed, albeit strategic locations, and are capturing a sample of the air. People should 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.


Health Information


Should smoky conditions persist, state and county health officials urge local residents to take the following precautions:


  • Be aware of smoke concentrations in your area.
  • Avoid strenuous outdoor activity including sports practice, work and recreation.
  • Avoid smoke by staying indoors, closing all windows and doors and using a filter in a heating/cooling system that removes very fine particulate matter. If possible, avoid smoky areas. If you do need to drive through smoke, keep your windows rolled up and vents closed. If you need air conditioning, make sure you set your system to re-circulate to avoid bringing smoke into the vehicle.
  • Drink plenty of water. Staying hydrated can keep your airways moist which will help reduce the amount of smoke particles that can travel deep into your lungs. Hydration may also reduce symptoms of scratchy throat and coughing.
  • Ask questions. People with concerns about health issues, including those suffering from asthma or other respiratory problems should contact their healthcare providers.

For more information about the health effects of smoke:

For more information about local conditions:

  • Visit DEQ’s wildfire information page for more information regarding active fires and air quality, along with tools to help people assess smoke levels in their area.
  • Tune to local radio and TV stations and the Weather Channel in affected areas that may include the very latest fire information in news programming and weather reports.
  • Obtain a dedicated NOAA Weather Radio receiver, which will alert you 24 hours a day to hazards in your area.


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