It was hazardous air quality in Sisters Thursday morning due to smoke from a prescribed burn, but the locals are shrugging it off.
On Wednesday, a 139-acre prescribed burn was conducted a mile and a half southwest of Sisters. Overnight, an inversion developed and the smoke traveled downhill into town where it spiked air quality monitors into readings well above hazardous.
Most air quality monitors stop reading at 500 or 600 parts per million of particulate matter, because there’s no point in measuring higher. It’s just bad air quality.
“It really was unexpected. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a prescribed burn have a smoke impact that high. I know that was not anticipated,” said Sarah Worthington, Climate and Health Coordinator for Crook, Deschutes and Jefferson counties.
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Worthington says the best way to protect your health is to limit your exposure to smoke. She says you can do that by keeping track of prescribed burns, checking air quality monitors and avoiding smoky air.
“All the prescribed fire activity that’s taking place is known in advance. You can receive something on your phone in advance. When you get that text message, that tells you it’s a good night to close your windows,” she said.
Smoke problems from prescribed burns are usually short term events, and that’s what happened in Sisters Thursday morning.
As the air temperature warmed, the smoke dissipated and people resumed their daily lives.
“It’s definitely not amazing,” said Vicky Hooks, at The Ski Inn in Sisters. “In the spring time when they start lighting the fires, it just brings up allergies for everybody.”
“Yes, if you are near a prescribed burn, it is recommended that you do keep those windows and doors closed in the evening and night time following a prescribed burn,” said Jaimie Olle, Deschutes National Forest Public Information Officer. “But typically, come the next morning when the temperatures warm a bit, the smoke will lift up and away from communities.”
Two more prescribed fires were ignited Thursday near Sunriver and Crescent. It’s a safe bet those communities will be seeing and smelling smoke come morning and a relief if they don’t.
Visit CentralOregonFire.org for information about prescribed fires and steps anyone can take to protect their health from smoke.