▶️ ‘Like smoking 15 cigarettes’: Central Oregon air quality among world’s worst


Heavy wildfire smoke rolled into Central Oregon Monday, moving much of the region into the hazardous air quality territory. It ranked Central Oregon among the worst air quality levels in the world. 

There were signs of improvement on Tuesday.

These were the air quality levels in Central Oregon cities Monday morning. An Air Quality Index (AQI) value of 50 or below represents good air quality, while an AQI value over 300 represents hazardous. air quality.

  • La Pine and Sunriver: 455 AQI (Hazardous)
  • Bend: 326 AQI (Hazardous)
  • Redmond: 326 AQI (Hazardous)
  • Madras: 111 AQI (Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups)
  • Sisters: 109 AQI (Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups)
  • Prineville: 108 AQI (Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups)

“If you were outside right now, in the 350’s for 24 hours, that would be like smoking 15 cigarettes,” said Jess LeBlanc, Mosaic Medical Chief Health Officer.

By Tuesday morning, much of that smoke had cleared. But the region remained in the unhealthy and unhealthy for sensitive groups range between La Pine and Warm Springs.

Air Quality Index chart

RELATED: Cedar Creek Fire growth slows dramatically; Some evacuation levels lowered

The World Air Quality Index project map at 10:15 a.m. Monday showed that Central Oregon was listed among the worst air quality levels on the planet. The maroon 371 marker you see listed on the map is for Bend.

Sept 12 World air quality index

How is the Air Quality Index calculated?

“The Air Quality Index when it comes to wildfire smoke, is measuring these little particulate grains of soot, essentially called particulate matter 2.5. And that’s referring to the size, which is just teeny, tiny,” said Harry Esteve with the Oregon Department of Environmental quality. “Wildfire smoke produces these particles and that’s where the health concerns come in because they can get breathed in, absorbed into the bloodstream, etc.”

But what if you live in an area that doesn’t have an Air Quality Index monitor? Central Oregon Fire Information has these tips says you should use the 5-3-1 visibility index as a guide.


How Central Oregon schools handle the smoke 

The Bend La-Pine School District says it has has mitigation strategies in place to reduce smoke exposure such as adjusting HVAC air flow and limiting outdoor activities.

Jefferson County School District 509J says it has similar plans of action and does not intend to cancel or shorten school days based on the air quality.

Other local school districts did not respond to requests for comment.

Other facilities close for the smoke

Several attractions and businesses shut down Monday due to the poor air quality, such as the Lava River Cave.

The Sunriver Homeowners Aquatic & Recreation Center (SHARC) closed due to indoor air quality levels reaching 355 — well into the hazardous range.

Mosaic Medical also closed several of its facilities Monday.


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