See the numbers through the smoke: DEQ tracks how wildfire has worsened air quality in the high desert in recent years – KTVZ

By | June 7, 2023

More ‘unhealthy’ air quality readings in the high desert – and now ‘dangerous’ too

PORTLAND, Oregon (KTVZ) — A look out the window or a walk in a park or neighborhood on many a smoky summer day over the past few years tells Central Oregonians what the latest data confirms: Those conditions that make the Mouths are becoming the “new summer” normal” in the region and other areas of the state, as wildfires worsen.

Smoke from wildfires continues to cause unhealthy air quality in communities across Oregon, with southern and central Oregon feeling the most significant impacts, according to a recently updated report from the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality.

The annual report, Wildfire Smoke Trends and the Air Quality Index tracks data from DEQ’s air monitoring stations as well as wildfire information from other state and national sources. It shows that the number of days of unhealthy air quality in Oregon due to wildfire smoke continues to rise over time.

The DEQ noted that between 1989 and 2016, Bend had only 10 days where air quality was in the Unhealthy category for sensitive groups, or worse. But over the past five years, there have been 58 such days, or nearly 10 a year. Bend also had air quality bad enough to make it into the Hazardous category for the first time, in 2020 and 2021.

From 1987 to 2014, Bend had only three unhealthy days due to smoke from the wildfires. But since then, it’s had 22 unhealthy days, five very unhealthy and seven with dangerous air quality.

Oakridge in Lane County had 37 unhealthy days for air quality sensitive or hazardous groups in 2022, the most it has ever had, and more than anywhere else in the state last year.


For 2022, the report’s key findings include:
Last year wasn’t as smoky overall as other recent years in Oregon, but long-lasting wildfires still produced unhealthy or dangerous air quality in many communities through the end of October.
In central and western Oregon, the Cedar Creek Fire east of Oakridge burned 127,000 acres between August and October, creating poor air quality in the Oakridge, Eugene, Springfield, Prineville and Bend areas.
In southwest Oregon, air quality was generally better than in previous years, but the area still had billowing smoke in August and September from two major wildfires: the Rum Creek Fire in Josephine County, which burned 21,000 acres, and the McKinney Fire in Northern California, which burned more than 60,000 acres.
In northeastern Oregon, two large fires created smoky air from August through October: the Double Creek Fire near Enterprise burned over 171,000 acres, and the Sturgill Fire east of La Grande burned over 23,000 acres.
The Portland metro area was affected by smoke in October from the Nakia Creek fire in Clark County, Washington. It was relatively small, burning about 2,000 acres, but its proximity caused several days of unhealthy air quality across the region.


The best way to protect yourself and your family from smoke from wildfires is to stay indoors when air quality is poor and to keep indoor air as clean as possible. Here’s how to prepare for the upcoming fire season:
Replace high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters in indoor ventilation systems.
Get portable HEPA air purifiers (MERV 13 or higher). Make sure you are using the correct purifier for your room size. Or make your own low-cost air purifying filter by following these instructions.
Monitor your air quality on the Oregon Smoke Information Blog ( En espaol ), DEQs Air Quality Index or by downloading the free OregonAIR app on your smartphone.

Smoking can irritate the eyes and lungs and make some medical conditions worse. People most at risk include infants and young children, people with heart or lung disease, the elderly, and pregnant women.

The western US is now experiencing longer wildfire seasons, causing people living in Oregon to endure smokier days with poor air quality, said Tom Roick, air quality monitoring manager. of DEQ. Therefore, everyone should monitor local air quality and take steps to protect ourselves, our families and our friends.

NOTE: Recent technology updates to the DEQ Air Quality Index means there is a NEW URL. Be sure to change your computer bookmark to

The Wildfire Smoke Trends and Air Quality Report is produced annually by the DEQ laboratory.

About [Oregon Department of Environmental Quality](
The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality protects human health and the environment by controlling air and water pollution, reducing the impact of manufactured products, and cleaning up contaminated properties. DEQ engages the public in decision making and helps communities solve problems in economically and environmentally sustainable ways.

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