Northwest Wildfires Create Nation’s Worst Air Quality in Oregon, Officials Issue Advisory

by Samantha Whidden
(Photo by Mathieu Lewis-Rolland/Getty Images)

On Friday (October 14th), the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality issued an air quality advisory due to the Northwest wildfires creating the worst air quality in the nation in parts of the state. 

According to Oregon Smoke, the air quality advisory was issued for much of western Oregon, and southwest Washington as the Northwest wildfires continue. The smoke source is currently from the Cedar Creek fire near Oakridge and fires in southwest Washington. 

The counties impacted are Benton, Clackamas, Columbia, Coos, Douglas, Lane, Linn, Marion, Multnomah, Polk, Washington, and Yamhill counties, plus southwest Washington. Deschutes, Klamath, and Lake counties are not part of the advisory. This is due to improving conditions. The end date of the Northwest wildfires advisory varies by county.

“Smoke levels can change rapidly depending on weather,” the advisory stated. “Smoke can irritate the eyes and lungs and worsen some medical conditions. People most at risk include infants and young children, people with heart or lung disease, older adults, and pregnant people.”

Those impacted by the Northwest wildfires are to stay inside if possible. They should also keep their windows and doors closed as well as avoid strenuous outdoor activity. Cloth, dust, and surgical masks do not protect from the harmful particles in smoke. “ N95 or P100 respirators approved by NIOSH may offer protection, but they must be properly selected and worn. Select a NIOSH-approved respirator with a N, R, or P alongside the number 95, 99, or 100.”

National Weather Services Announces ‘Red Flag Warning’ Amid Northwest Wildfires 

Meanwhile, the National Weather Service also announced a “red flag warning” in the areas impacted by the Northwest wildfires. This warning is due to gusty winds and low humidity that may create “more favorable fire conditions” during the weekend. 

“A Red Flag Warning means warm temperatures, very low humidities, and stronger winds are expected to combine to produce an increased risk of fire danger,” the National Weather Service website reads. “If you are allowed to burn in your area, all burn barrels must be covered with a weighted metal cover, with holes no larger than 3/4 of an inch.”

The National Weather Service also says to not throw cigarettes or matches out of vehicles at this time. “They may ignite dry grass on the side of the road and become a wildfire,” the website states. “Extinguish all outdoor fires properly. Drown fires with plenty of water and stir to make sure everything is cold to the touch. Dunk charcoal in water until cold. Do not throw live charcoal on the ground and leave it.”

The warning adds that no one should leave a fire unattended. “Sparks or embers can blow into leaves or grass, ignite a fire, and quickly spread.”