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Wildfire Smoke

Lane County is nestled in the beautiful Willamette Valley, where it is home to many national forests and state parks. Hot and dry summer months intensified by climate changes have increased Lane County’s wildfire risk and danger. Smoke can impact Lane County from wildfires as far away as California, Washington, Idaho, and even across the Pacific Ocean. However, we also experience wildfires right here at home. Check the current air quality on our Air Quality Page.

You can also check consumer grade air monitors in your neighborhood by visiting the EPA’s Smoke and Fire Map, or download the Air Now App available on the Google Play store and Apple’s App Store.

Wildfires In Lane County

LRAPA encourages residents to prepare for wildfire season and familiarize themselves with the various resources available:

  • Lane County Public Health offers lots of info on wildfire smoke and health. They are a major partner with us regarding wildfire smoke episodes.
  • The EPA has numerous resources detailing the health impacts people experience as a result of wildfire smoke and what you can do to protect yourself and your family.
  • The Oregon Health Authority also has health-related resources, as well as information on respirators and indoor air pollution during wildfire season.
  • The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality has a statewide air quality map with Lane County’s information on it. They also have an app for your smartphones called “OregonAir” that can send you notifications about your local air quality.
  • The Oregon Smoke Blog will have the most up to date forecasting information around fires and wildfire smoke across the state. There is another air quality map here that also shows you the location of nearby wildfires.

Your Health & Wildfire Smoke

Wildfire smoke is a mixture of gases and fine particles from burning trees and other plant material. The gases and fine particles can be dangerous if inhaled. In wildfires, carbon monoxide is mainly a risk to people (like firefighters) who work near smoldering areas. Smoke can irritate your eyes and your respiratory system, and worsen chronic heart and lung diseases. The amount and length of smoke exposure, as well as a person’s age and degree of susceptibility, play a role in determining if someone will experience smoke-related health problems. If you are experiencing serious medical problems for any reason, seek medical attention immediately

Wildfire smoke is especially harmful for seniors, children under 12, and people with pre-existing heart/lung conditions. Inhaling smoke is never healthy, and we advise people to protect themselves by paying attention to local air quality reports, keeping indoor air clean, following your doctor’s advice, and evacuate if needed. For more information, visit the Oregon Health Authorities frequently asked questions about wildfire smoke and public health (PDF).

The particulate matter (also called “PM”) in wildfire smoke poses the biggest risk to the public’s health. The potential health effects vary based on the type of plants burning, atmospheric conditions and, most importantly, the size of the particles. Particles larger than 10 micrometers usually irritate only the eyes, nose and throat. Fine particles 2.5 micrometers or smaller (PM2.5) can be inhaled into the deepest part of the lungs, and may cause greater health concern.

Masks During Wildfires

Are masks effective during wildfires? The best way to protect your health is to remove yourself from a smoky situation. If you are considering a mask, keep in mind that surgical masks and dust masks do not filter fine particles. N95 respirators are available for purchase at most hardware stores but they are not reliable unless they are fit-tested by a certified professional. Cloths masks beneficial for minimizing the spread of COVID-19 do not offer any additional protection from wildfire smoke.

DIY Air Filters

One easy and affordable way to make your own air cleaner at home is with a box fan and a furnace filter. These “filter fans” can filter out the small particles that are common in wildfire or wood smoke. Particle pollution can lead to a number of immediate and long-term health impacts such as trouble breathing, asthma attacks, and lung and heart disease. Particle pollution is especially dangerous for children, the elderly, and people with sensitive immune systems.