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Check here for information on fires in our region. You can also check out these resources:Northwest Interagency Coordination CenterSWOFIRE: Oregon Department of Forestry, SW regionCalFire: Current Fire InformationInciWeb: Incident Information SystemOregon Smoke Blog: Smoke informationSouth Central Oregon Fire Management Cooperative (Klamath/Lake Counties & Crater Lake)

Regional Air Quality Remains Compromised, But Worst Near Big Fires

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Washington Smoke Map
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UPDATE: THURSDAY, AUGUST 13, 2:15 P.M. ...  Most air quality monitors in southern Oregon and northern California are registering 24-hour averages in the "Moderate" or "Good" ranges.

Like yesterday, the main exceptions remain areas close to major fire complexes.

  

According to the air quality report for southwest Oregon from the Rogue River-Siskiyou and Umpqua National Forests, smoke dispersion Thursday will be better than it was yesterday as wind speeds increase.

Winds are expected to dilute the smoke and prevent high level air quality impacts although a lot of smoke remains in the area.

However, Red Flag Warning weather conditions (hot and windy with low relative humidity) are forecast east of the Cascades. There is a concern for increased fire growth and subsequent increased smoke production.

Areas near and downwind of wildfires may experience "Unhealthy" or "Unhealthy For Sensitive Groups"  levels. This includes Shady Cove, Tiller and Prospect.

The Crescent Fire in Crater Lake National Park is expected to be the major smoke producer with additional contributions from Collier Butte and Stout fires. 

Upper transport winds will continues to dominant from the northwest west of the Cascades with south/southeast flow east of the Cascades.

The air quality report from the Shasta-Trinity and Six Rivers Complexes says  that today, westerly onshore flow will meet southerly valley wind from Sacramento Valley at Trinity/Shasta County line.  Good mixing height and strong southerly transport wind is expected.  So, smoke from fires in Trinity County is likely to be lifted and transported to the north.  Hyampon, Hayfork, and Mad River are likely to have a few hours of cleaner air, but overall air quality is likely to remain in the "Very Unhealthy" or "Hazardous" ranges.  Over nights, smoke will settle into the South Fork Trinity River drainage and Trinity River drainage. 

Going into Friday and the weekend, day time mixing will be much poorer due to lower mixing height and transport wind speed due to high pressure moving in over the area.  Westerly onshore flow will flow all the way into Shasta County during the day, but it will be stronger tomorrow compared to Saturday.  Strong northerly wind is forecast to develop overnight. Air quality is likely to deteriorate in the area, especially in Trinity County where the fires are. 
 
For more information about air quality issues visit the Oregon Smoke Blog, or the California Smoke Blog. 

UPDATE: WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 12, 11:00 A.M. ... Most air quality reporting stations around southern Oregon and northern California this morning are recording air compromised by smoke from the many active wildfires in the region.

But the only locales showing "Unhealthy" or worse Air Quality Index readings are right near major fires.

Throughout southwest Oregon, smoke is causing readings of "Moderate" air quality. Medford, Grants Pass, Jacksonville, Shady Cove, Applegate and Cave Junction are all registering "Moderate" air quality.

The only southern Oregon station reporting "Unhealthy" AQI readings is at Tiller, right near the 23,000-acre Stouts Fire.

In northern California, a similar pattern shows Redding, Crescent City and Happy Camp with "Moderate" air quality, while Yreka, Mount Shasta, Etna and Willow Creek register AQI readings in the "Good" range. Even Gasquet, near the Gasquet Complex fires in Del North County, still registers as "Good." 

The bad air epicenter of the region continues to be in the heart of the Trinity Complex fires. Mad River and Hayfork both register "Unhealthy" air, while Hyampom again registers "Hazardous."

For more information about air quality issues visit the Oregon Smoke Blog, or the California Smoke Blog. 

UPDATE: TUESDAY, AUGUST 11, 11:30 A.M. ... Smoke from wildfires continues to impact air quality in southern Oregon and northern California, but Air Quality Index readings from around the region are mostly improved from those of just a couple of days ago.

The worst air remains in communities in the middle of the Trinity County fire complexes.

As of  Tuesday morning, air quality was rated "Good" in Ashland, Jacksonville, Grants Pass, Yreka and Crescent City.

AQI readings registered "Moderate" in Medford, Klamath Falls, Cave Junction, Applegate, Happy Camp, Etna and Mad River.

Shady Cove, which has frequently had the worst air quality in the Rogue Valley area during this season's wildfires, registered as "Unhealthy For Sensitive Groups."

The regional bad air epicenter this morning is in Hayfork and Hyampom, both of which are in the heart of the Trinity County fire complexes and both of which registered "Very Unhealthy" air 

For up-to-the-minute air quality information, visit the California Smoke Blog and the Oregon Smoke Blog

UPDATE: MONDAY, AUGUST 10, 10:45 A.M. ... Shifting winds are pushing most of the smoke from the Stouts fire eastward, giving residents of the Rogue Valley a break. 

But ongoing fire activity in Trinity County continues to compromise air quality in northern California.

Air quality in Ashland was actually in the "Good" range Monday morning, a sharp improvement over late last week, when a temporary AQI monitor installed downtown registered  "Unhealthy" levels of small particulates in the air.

This morning, air quality monitors in Medford, Applegate and Jacksonville all showed AQI readings in the "Moderate" range, an improvement for Medford, which has had "Unhealthy" readings for much of the past 10 days. Klamath Falls, Cave Junction, Crescent City and Happy Camp also had "Moderate" readings.

Closer to the Trinity County fire complexes, though, air quality is taking a hit. 

Air quality in Yreka registers as  "Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups," and the AQI in Redding, Etna and Mad River is in the "Unhealty" category. 

Hayfork registers as "Very Unhealthy."

Weather forecasters say hot, dry and windy weather -- combined with possible thunderstorms -- could start new fires and fan existing ones over the next few days, leading to deteriorating air quality around the region.

UPDATE: FRIDAY, AUGUST 7, 2:15 P.M. ... Temporary air quality monitoring stations have gone online in Ashland, Jacksonville, Yreka, Mount Shasta and other communities being affected by the ongoing wildfires around the region. This allows a more complete picture of the local air quality situation.

By and large, the news isn't good.

As of 2:00 on Friday afternoon, Air Quality Index readings for small particles were in the "Unhealthy" range in Medford, Ashland, Yreka, Etna and Willow Creek, California.  

Orleans, California is registering as "Unhealthy For Sensitive Groups," while readings in Mount Shasta, Redding and Jacksonville are in the "Moderate" range. 

Hayfork, California -- right in the middle of the Fork Complex of fires burning in Humboldt County -- is registering an AQI reading of 500, in the "Hazardous" range.

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UPDATE: FRIDAY, AUGUST 7, NOON ...  Air quality continues to be affected by wildfires in Oregon, especially in the southwest corner of the state.  Shady Cove is the state monitoring site that is consistently getting hit the hardest by smoke traveling south from the Stouts Creek fire. The 24 hour average Air Quality Index there is in the red or "Unhealthy" range, although the most recent reading on the monitor shows that air quality is better, at least for the moment. 

Smoke coming from the fires around the region tends to lessen as the fires slow down overnight. By early afternoon, fire activity has tended to pick up, and air quality has dropped with it.

Thursday night, the Oregon Shakespeare Festival canceled a performance of "Head Over Heels" in the outdoor Allen Elizabethan Theater in Ashland. "The Count of Monte Christo" -- and the outdoor Green Show -- are canceled for Friday evening, as well.

UPDATE: WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 5, 10:00 A.M. ... As regional wildfires continue to put smoke into the air, health officials in Jackson, Josephine and Klamath Counties are advising local residents to be aware of the air quality readings in their areas and to protect themselves from unhealthy air.

As of this morning, Medford and Shady Cove are the bad air hot spots in southwestern Oregon. Shady Cove's Air Quality Index rating is "Unhealthy," while Medford's has improved to "Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups," such as children, the elderly and those with respiratory vulnerabilities. 

Klamath Falls and Cave Junction register "Moderate" AQI readings, while Grants Pass' reading is "Good."

The Ashland Daily Tidings reports that the US Forest Service will soon set up a temporary air monitoring station in Ashland, atop the Black Swan Theater at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. A similar temporary set-up was installed during heavy smoke build-ups in the summer of 2013.

Jackson County health officials offer the following suggestions for dealing with the ongoing poor air quality in the region ... 

  • Be aware of smoke concentrations in your area and avoid the places with highest concentrations. Use visibility to estimate air quality (attached document). This method is useful during wildfires because air quality monitors may not be located nearby and may not represent real-time conditions. Smoke levels can change rapidly and conditions can vary significantly at different locations. Go here for more information.
  • Avoid smoke either by leaving the area or protecting yourself by staying indoors, and by closing windows and doors
  • Avoid strenuous outdoor activity in smoky conditions.
  • Drink lots of water - staying hydrated can keep your airways moist which will help reduce symptoms of respiratory irritation such as scratchy throat, running nose and coughing.
  • People exposed to smoky conditions and who suffer from asthma or other respiratory problems should follow their breathing management plans or contact their healthcare providers.

Check the Department of Environmental Quality's Air Quality Index page to see real-time air monitor data from around the state.

 

UPDATE: TUESDAY, AUGUST 4, 10:45 A.M. ... Public health officials in Klamath County are urging residents to take precautions as smoke from fires in Oregon and California continues to harm air quality in southwestern Oregon. Small particulate measurements in the region are better this morning than they were Monday afternoon, but smoke levels and weather conditions continue to fluctuate, meaning air quality could easily deteriorate through the day as fire activity picks up.

As of mid-morning on Tuesday, Air Quality Index readings in Grants Pass were rated "Good." Klamath Falls, Cave Junction and Applegate had improved to "Moderate." Even Medford, which had been at "Unhealthy" for four days straight, came up a notch to "Unhealthy For Sensitive Groups." Shady Cove registered "Unhealthy," but even that was a step up from Monday's "Hazardous" rating.

All these areas had improved from Monday afternoon, when the cities clustered in southwestern Oregon had the worst air quality ratings on the entire West Coast.

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Air Quality Index map for mid-Monday afternoon showed a cluster of readings in Oregon's southwest corner that ranged from "Unhealthy" to "Hazardous."

Weather forecasters expect the current smoke and weather conditions to persist for at least the next few days, if not longer.

UPDATE: Monday, AUGUST 3, 11:30 A.M. ... Smoke from the Stouts fire in Douglas County continues to flow into southwest Oregon, causing air quality problems in the Rogue Valley, Illinois Valley, the Umpqua Basin, Upper Klamath Basin and the Applegate Valley.

While air quality has improved over the past 24 hours in Klamath Falls, it's gotten worse in Grants Pass and the Applegate. Air quality continues to be unhealthy in Medford.

As of 10:00 Monday morning, monitoring stations in Klamath Falls, Lakeview, Cave Junction and Roseburg reported Air Quality Index ratings in the "Moderate" range. 

The AQI in the Applegate is rated "Unhealthy For Sensitive Groups," that is, the elderly, children and others with respiratory vulnerabilities. 

The air in Medford gets an"Unhealthy"rating for the fourth day in a row, while the AQI in Grants Pass has slid into the "Unhealthy" category, as well. 

Several days into the air quality slump, the health impacts seem to be starting to make themselves felt. Hillary Brown with Providence Medford Medical Center says they're seeing a small increase in people coming to the Emergency Department seeking help with respiratory problems. The greater increase, she says, is in calls to primary care providers. Those are either patients with existing allergies, asthma or other respiratory vulnerabilities, Brown says, or people experiencing wheezing or coughing and asking if they need to come in for treatment.

Officials at Asante's Rogue Regional Medical Center in Medford and Three Rivers Medical Center in Grants Pass say they've not yet seen an increase in smoke-related complaints.

Meanwhile, if you're hoping the air quality situation will improve soon, Sven Nelaimischkies with the National Weather Service in Medford says don't hold your breath.

"I don't expect that we will be breaking out of this smoke situation anytime in the near future," he tells JPR. Unless a strong thunderstorm comes through that pushes fresh air into the valleys of southern Oregon, he says, the regional fires will continue to smoke us out. And he sees little on the horizon that's likely to bring that weather pattern.

Since we seem to have little choice but to live with the lousy air quality, the Jackson County Health and Human Services Department has issued an information sheet about the impacts of wildfire smoke and how to best avoid them. Check it out here.

UPDATE: SUNDAY, AUGUST 2, 11:30 A.M. ... Smoke from the Stouts fire in Douglas County continues to flow into southwest and south central Oregon, causing deteriorating air quality.

According to the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, as of 7:30 Sunday morning, air quality remained unhealthy to very unhealthy in Medford and Shady Cove. Provolt moved into the "Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups" category. Grants Pass and Cave Junction remained only in the "Moderate" range.  

However, Klamath Falls moved into the "Hazardous" category and even as far away as Lakeview moved into the "Moderate" category.

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Credit DEQ
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Red, maroon and orange dots in southern Oregon indicate deteriorating air quality measurements in Medford, Shady Cove, Klamath Falls and other locations.

On Sunday at 11:00 a.m.,the air monitoring station in Medford registered the 24-hour average Air Quality Index at 188, in the "Unhealthy" category.

In Klamath Falls, the 24-hour average AQI was 380, into the "Hazardous" range.

In Shady Cove at 9:00 a.m. (the most recent reading available), the 24-hour AQI was 343, also "Hazardous."

(Scroll to the bottom of the previous post to see health officials' recommendations for dealing with poor air quality.) 

ORIGINAL POST: SATURDAY, AUGUST 1, 1:50 P.M. ... Surrounded by growing wildfires in southern Oregon and northern California, residents of the Rogue Valley are enduring smoky air that health officials label "unhealthy."

And weather forecasters say the valley may not clear out till some time next week.

According to the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, testing stations in Medford and Shady Cove registered "Unhealthy" levels of particulates in the air Friday evening and into Saturday. As of noon, the Air Quality Index in Medford and Shady Cove was 180, well into the "Unhealthy" range.

Misty Duncan, with the National Weather Service in Medford says there's some smoke at higher levels drifting over the state line from several fires in northern California. But, she says, the lower-level smoke filling the Rogue Valley comes from the Stouts fire in Douglas County.

"Friday, there was a big plume from the Stouts fire," Duncan says. "When that plume collapsed in the evening, winds pushed the smoke into the valley. Then the winds died, and the smoke got trapped."

Duncan says there's no quick relief in sight, either.

"Unless we get a strong thunderstorm Saturday afternoon, we'll need a bigger weather shift to flush out the valley," she says. Duncan adds there's nothing like that on the horizon for several days.

"It's going to be around for a little while," Duncan says.

So far, at least, the bad air doesn't seem to be making people sick. Lauren VanSickle, with Asante Rogue Regional Medical Center in Medford told JPR that, as of Saturday at noon, the emergency department had not reported increased numbers of people seeking treatment for respiratory distress associated with the air quality levels.

Officials at Providence Medical Center in Medford were not available for comment.

In the meanwhile, Jackson County health officials and DEQ advise residents to take the following precautions:

  • Be aware of smoke concentrations in your area and avoid the places with highest concentrations.
  • Avoid smoke either by leaving the area or protecting yourself by staying indoors, and by closing windows and doors
  • Avoid strenuous outdoor activity in smoky conditions.
  • People exposed to smoky conditions and who suffer from asthma or other respiratory problems should follow their breathing management plans or contact their healthcare providers.
Liam Moriarty has been covering news in the Pacific Northwest for three decades. He served two stints as JPR News Director and retired full-time from JPR at the end of 2021. Liam now edits and curates the news on JPR's website and digital platforms.