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Smoky Air Is Back, To Businesses' Dismay

April Ehrlich | JPR News
People walking through Ashland's downtown district were spotted wearing N-95 masks to protect themselves from unhealthy wildfire smoke.

The Milepost 97 fire in Douglas County is pushing clouds of unhealthy air into southern Oregon and even into California.


The ashy gray skies have brought back bad memories for business owners who endured losses during recent smoky summers.

Ashland Fly Shop owner Will Johnson says wildfire smoke has reduced the foot traffic past his store. Still, he remains hopeful.

“In the last few years, [the smoke] seems like a fairly consistent thing,” Johnson said. “We were hoping we might sneak by it this year, but we’re having a little bit of it now. It’s only been a few days, so we’ll see.”

The smoke has impacted larger Southern Oregon businesses as well, including the Britt Festival, which had to move a Sunday performance from an outdoor pavillion to an indoor auditorium at North Medford High School.

Theater performances are one of the biggest tourism draws to this region. Eleanor Mitchell traveled to Ashland from Sacramento to watch an outdoor performance in the Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s famous Elizabethan theater.

“We brought our daughter-in-law here for the first time and raved about the Elizabethan theatre,” Mitchell said. “Then our play was cancelled. We had to go to an indoor theater and it ruined the whole experience.”

The Oregon Shakespeare Festival has had to move three performances last week to an indoor theater at the Ashland High School.

April Ehrlich is JPR content partner at Oregon Public Broadcasting. Prior to joining OPB, she was a regional reporter at Jefferson Public Radio where she won a National Edward R. Murrow Award.