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As Wildfire Smoke Blankets Region, People Advised To Monitor Local Air Quality


Wildfire smoke has greatly reduced air quality in several populated areas in Lane County, including Oakridge and Eugene-Springfield. 

As of Wednesday morning, the Lane Regional Air Protection Agency rates Oakridge air as “unhealthy”, with a reading of 180 on their index…and 20 points away from “very unhealthy.” 

Today's AQI readings from LRAPA.

“Degradation in the Oakridge-Westfir area is contributed by the Middle Fork Complex Fire, all the fires that they have and the Willamette National Forest," LRAPA spokesman Travis Knudsen told KLCC. "Oakridge has really struggled with air quality over the last few days.” 

Knudsen says Eugene-Springfield’s rating is “Unhealthy for Sensitive Individuals”, which includes young children, the elderly, and people with respiratory issues.

A screen grab of fire.airnow.gov shows areas of Oregon and California showing unhealthy air levels from wildfires.

“Particularly for those farther to the east and more up into the Cascades, closer to the fires and the smoke from those fires.” 

Overnight air quality does improve a little, but residents are strongly advised to stay indoors.

Knudsen says a new website from the EPA allows Oregonians to check on fire and air quality in their immediate area.

“And the web address is fire-dot-airnow-dot gov. The great thing about the fire and smoke map is that it lists not only the government monitors from LRAPA and DEQ, but it also plots the more numerous commercial-grade purple air monitors which LRAPA has installed about 90 of those across the county.”

The site had been in a limited, pilot-phase last year, but is now active for 2021.  Monitoring conditions is especially important for senior citizens, children, people who are pregnant, and those with respiratory or heart issues.

Copyright 2021, KLCC. 

Brian Bull joined the KLCC News Team in June 2016. In his 25+ years as a public media journalist, he's worked at NPR, Twin Cities Public Television, South Dakota Public Broadcasting, Wisconsin Public Radio, and ideastream in Cleveland. His reporting has netted dozens of accolades, including four national Edward R. Murrow Awards (19 regional), the Ohio Associated Press' Best Reporter Award, Best Radio Reporter from the Native American Journalists Association, and the PRNDI/NEFE Award for Excellence in Consumer Finance Reporting.