Thursday, June 23, 2016

Oregon Department of Environmental Quality

Using visibility to estimate health effects

haze and smoke affects healthDEQ monitors air pollution throughout the state to ensure that air quality standards are being met. Since wildfires often occur in remote areas, air monitoring equipment may not be available. Smoke levels can rise and fall rapidly, depending on weather factors including wind direction. Making visual observations using the 5-3-1 visibility index is a simple way of estimating smoke levels and what precautions to take. While this method can be a useful tool, persons should always use caution and avoid going outside if visibility is limited, especially persons who may be sensitive to smoke.

Estimating visibility using the 5-3-1 Index

Determine the limit of your visual range by looking for distant targets or familiar landmarks such as mountains, mesas, hills, or buildings at known distances (miles). The visual range is that point at which these targets are no longer visible. As a general rule of thumb: if you can clearly see the outlines of individual trees on the horizon it is generally less than five miles away. Ideally, the viewing of any distance targets should be made with the sun behind you. Looking into the sun or at an angle increases the ability of sunlight to reflect off of the smoke, and thus making the visibility estimate less reliable.
Once distance has been determined, follow this simple guide:
  • If visibility is well over five miles, the air quality is generally good.
  • Even if visibility is five miles away but generally hazy, air quality is moderate and beginning to deteriorate, and is generally healthy, except possibly for smoke sensitive persons. The general public should avoid prolonged exposure if conditions are smoky to the point where visibility is closer to the 5-mile range.
  • If under five miles, the air quality is unhealthy for young children, adults over age 65, pregnant women, and people with heart and/or lung disease, asthma or other respiratory illness. These people should minimize outdoor activity.
  • If under three miles, the air quality is unhealthy for everyone.  Young children, adults over age 65, pregnant women, and people with heart and/or lung disease, asthma or other respiratory illness. These people should minimize outdoor activity.
  • If under one mile, the air quality is unhealthy for everyone.  Everyone should avoid all outdoor activities.

Friday, June 10, 2016

DEQ issues air quality advisory for several Central Oregon counties June 09, 2016

Central Oregon, OR—The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality urges residents in Crook, Deschutes, Klamath, and Jefferson counties to take precautions from smoke caused by fires burning in central Oregon and California.

High smoke levels can create health problems for even healthy people so remember to limit your exposure to smoke by keeping windows and doors closed, reducing the time you spend in smoky areas and avoiding strenuous outdoor activity. The elderly, children and those with respiratory diseases can be particularly vulnerable to the effects of smoke.

Smoke levels can rise and fall rapidly, depending on weather conditions including wind direction. For instance, on Wednesday evening elevated readings were reported in Prineville where air quality readings were back to normal ranges – at least for the time being -- on Thursday morning.

People can conduct a visual assessment of smoke levels to quickly get a sense of air quality levels and take precautions.
A number of wildfires have occurred in central Oregon over the last few days, including the Akawana wildfire north of Sisters.

Visit the Oregon Smoke Blog for more information on active fires and air quality, along with tools to help people assess smoke levels in their area. The site is an effort by city, county, tribal, state and federal agencies to provide information for Oregon communities affected by wildfire smoke. You can also follow them on Twitter: @ORSmokeBlog.

Katherine Benenati, Public Affairs Specialist, Eugene, 541-686-7997,
Jennifer Flynt, Public Affairs Specialist, Portland, 503-229-6585,

Friday, June 3, 2016

Wednesday, June 1st, 2016, 7:49:04 AM PDT
Lakeview, Oregon - [Klamath Falls]—Fire officials in Klamath and Lake Counties will officially declare fire season beginning Friday, June 3rd, 2016 at 12:01 A.M. on lands protected by the Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF) Klamath-Lake District. Areas protected by the Walker Range Forest Protective Association, northern Klamath County, have been in a declared fire season since Wednesday, June 1st, 2016 at 12:01 A.M. This affects all private, county, state forestlands, and those Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lands under contract and agreement west of the Gerber Reservoir area and HWY 97. “Despite fairly cool and spring like weather for a good portion of May, these current hot and dry conditions look to continue thru the first weeks of June, so it’s time to prohibit all outdoor burning and put normal industrial restrictions in place.” Stated Randall Baley, Protection Unit Forester, Oregon Department of Forestry.

The “Fire Season in effect” declaration puts into place regulations restricting debris burning and forest operations. Wildland and structural fire protection agencies in Klamath County have agreed to prohibit all outdoor debris burning as do the agencies in Lake County unless a permit is first obtained. Forest operations that require a Permit to Operate Power Driven Machinery now are required to have Fire tools, on-site water supply, and watchman service on privately owned forest land. In addition to the “Declaration of Fire Season”, ODF and the Klamath Resource Area of the Bureau of Land Management will be placing the Klamath River Canyon area from the Keno Dam to the State Line in a “Regulated Closure”. The Closure stipulates the following: 1) Possession of the following fire-fighting equipment is required while traveling in the forest, except on state and county roads: an axe, a shovel, and one gallon of water or one 2½ pound or larger fire extinguisher. • “Axe” means a wood cutting tool having a handle of not less than 26 inches in length and a head weight of not less than 2 pounds. • “Shovel,” means a digging tool having a handle not less than 26 inches in length and a blade of not less than 8 inches in width. 2) Smoking in wildland areas is permitted only in enclosed vehicles on roads. Smoking is prohibited while working or traveling in an industrial operation area. 3) Open fires, including campfires, charcoal fires, cooking fires and warming fires, are permitted only at posted and designated sites. 4) Non-Industrial Chainsaw usage is prohibited between 1 P.M. and 8 P.M. 5) Fireworks usage is prohibited within the Closure Area.

The Klamath River Canyon has been placed under this Regulated Closure due to its lower elevation, drier fuels, and steep terrain. The Lakeview Interagency Fire Center website: is available to assist in keeping people informed of current and changing conditions for our area. Walker Range Patrol Association can be contacted at 541-433-2451.