▶️ Unhealthy air quality days in Central Oregon more frequent in recent years


If you think Central Oregon air quality has gotten progressively worse in recent years, you are absolutely right. The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality’s new Wildfire Smoke Trends report backs that up.

“The report shows the number of unhealthy air quality days due to wildfire smoke continues to grow over time. We also see that Southern and Central Oregon continue to experience the most significant impacts,” said DEQ spokesperson Laura Gleim.

From 1989 to 2016, the City of Bend had just ten days total measured as Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups or worse (USG) due to wildfire smoke. But from 2017 to 2022, it had 58 USG.

That means a jump from 10 days over the span of 27 years to nearly 10 days each and every year — a 24.2 fold increase.

And in 2020, Central Oregon saw its first days of air quality deemed hazardous to health. There were six such days in 2020, one in 2021 and five in 2022.

>>> Have you checked out Central Oregon Daily News on YouTube? Click here to subscribe and share our videos.

RELATED: 2 major insurance companies withdraw from California; wildfires among reasons

RELATED: Brush fire near Cascade Lakes Welcome Station starts with abandoned campfire

It’s not just the local wildfires that are causing this.

“Here in Oregon, we get smoke that comes down from Canada, from British Columbia. We also get smoke that comes north from California and so smoke really can travel long distances,” said Gleim said.

The long-term outlook is for more acreage burned and more smoke in our air and lungs. Wildfire smoke is tending to become the new norm.

So how do you mitigate the effects? The Oregon Health Authority says stay indoors as much as possible on smoky days. If you have to go outside, wear an N95 mask. Avoid strenuous exercise and update the air filters in your home.

The Oregon Department of Forestry says while it can’t control the smoke impacts of wildfires, Oregonians can do their part at home or when they enjoy the outdoors.

“Pre-2013 fire seasons weren’t like they were now. Now, we are seeing just higher activity and higher temperatures, drier conditions. And so it has to fall a little bit more on Oregonians and to help in wildfire prevention,” said ODF spokesperson Jessica Prakke.

Prevention efforts include things like building defensible space around your home and putting out campfires properly. Just last weekend, firefighters had to put out a quarter-acre brush fire near the Cascade Lakes Welcome Center. It started with a campfire that was left unattended.

It’s a simple proposition: Less chance of fires means less chance of smoke.


Top Local Stories