Air still unhealthy in Portland area as Eagle Creek Fire blazes in East Multnomah County

September 7, 2017

An air quality alert remains in effect for Multnomah County through Friday as the National Weather Service projects a change in winds, and a trace of rain will offer residents a break from smoke caused by the Eagle Creek Fire.

“Today is going to be a little bit better and tomorrow a little bit better. A bigger improvement will come Saturday and help clear some of the smoke that’s aloft,” said Jeremiah Pyle, a meteorologist with the Portland office of the National Weather Service. “It’s not going to be great, but it will be better.”

Pyle said weather experts project warmer, dryer weather will return next week and draw smoke back into the Portland area. But, he said, “it’s unlikely it will be as bad as it’s been the last couple days.”

Health officials continue to urge residents — especially children, people with chronic lung or heart conditions and the elderly — to check air quality updates regularly and take precautions as smoky conditions continue. The best way to avoid breathing problems is to stay inside. Those who must be outdoors should avoid intense activity.

Visible pieces of ash are big enough to be kept out of the lungs by the body’s natural defenses in the nose and throat. But small particles from wildfire smoke can get into the lungs and can irritate the eyes and throat.

Paper "dust" masks commonly found at hardware stores are meant to trap large particles such as sawdust will not protect the lungs from the small particles in smoke. There are also specially designed air filters worn on the face called respirators or “N95” or “N100” masks. These masks must fit tightly against the face and be checked with special equipment. If it does not fit properly, the respirator may provide almost no protection and can make it harder to breathe.

 

Resources

Follow smoke projections from the U.S. Forest Service.

Check the air quality near you through the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality.

Track the Eagle Creek Fire from the The National Wildfire Coordinating Group.

Read more about considerations for vulnerable populations.

Learn about health effects of wildfire smoke from the Oregon Health Authority.