Updated Saturday, Oct. 15, 2022
Media Contacts: Ryan Yambra, firstname.lastname@example.org
Health Department reinstates mandatory wood burning restriction due to air pollution from wildfire smoke
Forecasts call for continuous wildfire smoke and poor air quality through the weekend and into early next week; Multnomah County requires people refrain from burning wood until advisory is lifted; local health officials warn about the harms of exposure to smoke
Wildfire smoke from across the Pacific Northwest reentered the Portland Metro area this week, degrading air quality and leading health officials to issue another mandatory wood burning restriction(red day) for Multnomah County residents today, Friday, Oct. 14.
The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) has also extended its air quality advisory for continuous smoke in the Portland metro area through the weekend. Conditions are expected to vary with intermittent smoke getting trapped in our area into next week.
“It may seem like prime open window weather with moderate temperatures and fall vibes, but since wildfire smoke has entered the metro area, we encourage people to check air quality often because conditions can change quickly,” says Nadège Dubuisson, who works on air quality at the health department. “Use an air cleaner indoors if it's available to you, especially if you have anyone who may be especially affected by poor air quality in your household.”
People who are at higher risk of smoke exposure include pregnant people, children, people with heart or lung conditions, and older adults. Residents can protect their health and reduce pollution indoors by turning on an air filter or learn how to build one. Visit multco.us/wildfiresmoke to learn more.
Health officials will continue to monitor the situation. The air quality burn restriction will be lifted when conditions improve. Burn restrictions are posted at multco.us/woodsmokestatus.
This is the third wood-burning restriction this month – also called a red day – and the eighth since the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners extended the County’s wood smoke curtailment ordinance year-round in February 2022. This restriction does not apply to cooking, but residents should take caution when cooking outside. Exemptions are available for those in emergency situations.
People at risk
People at the greatest risk of complications from smoke exposure include pregnant people, children, people with pre-existing heart disease, people with chronic lung disease, and older individuals.
People who work outdoors are also at elevated risk. Employers should visit Oregon OSHA for requirements and recommendations to protect employee health.
What should you do
Keep windows and doors closed (if temperatures allow). If it is too hot indoors, seek cooler indoor air.
- If spending time outside, avoid strenuous exercise outdoors during periods of poor air quality.
- If available, set AC to recirculate air, use an air cleaner with a HEPA filter, or build your own DIY air cleaner.
- Listen to your body and watch for any symptoms of smoke exposure.
- Keep an eye on air quality near you (links to air quality maps below or on our website.)
- Do not rely on masks or bandanas for protection. Not all masks are effective and can provide a false sense of protection from smoke. An “N95” respirator can offer some protection if you must be outdoors, but it must be properly worn.
When air quality improves and reaches the yellow or green level on the Air Quality Index, even temporarily, air out your home to reduce indoor air pollution. People in homes that are too warm to stay inside with the windows closed, or who are at-risk of smoke-related health effects, should seek shelter elsewhere.
Know the symptoms
The symptoms of wildfire smoke most reported include scratchy throat, stinging or watery eyes, stuffy nose, sinus irritation, coughing, trouble breathing, and tiredness or dizziness.
Mild symptoms of smoke exposure often include:
- Burning eyes
- Sore throat
- Phlegm production
- Changes in breathing
Dry cough, sore throat, and difficulty breathing are common to both wildfire smoke exposure and COVID-19. Contact your doctor if you believe you are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19.
But smoke exposure can also cause serious and life-threatening respiratory distress, including heart attacks and strokes. If you’re in distress, you should immediately dial 9-1-1.
Healthy people affected by smoke may have only mild symptoms. But healthy people may also have underlying health conditions that put them at risk. Listen to your body’s cues:
If your eyes are burning, if your throat is sore, if your lungs are having a hard time expanding, if you are coughing, stay inside and focus on creating a “Clean Room” where the air is as clean as possible.
Gauging air quality
To find air quality information visit:
- Oregon Smoke Blog: Local, state, tribal and federal organizations coordinate to share information about wildfires and smoke.
- Oregon Air Quality map: The state Department of Environmental Quality updates a map of current air quality. Due to high traffic, the site can slow or crash. The sites below offer good alternatives.
- EPA Air Quality map: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency pulls real-time air quality data from Oregon and Washington States.
- State of Oregon Fires Map: The Oregon Office of Emergency Management updates a map of active fires, air quality and closures.
If you can’t access AQI information, the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality shares this 5-3-1 visibility index to help estimate smoke levels:
- Five miles: air quality is generally good.
- Three to five miles: air quality is unhealthy for young children, older adults, pregnant women, and people with heart or lung disease, asthma or other respiratory illness.
- Less than three miles: air quality is unhealthy for everyone.
- Less than one mile: air quality is unhealthy for everyone.
Wood Burning Violations
To report a suspected violation of a mandatory burn restriction and smoke from a recreational fire, contact Multnomah County Environmental Health:
- Call 503-988-0035
- Submit a Web form: https://www.multco.us/health/staying-healthy/webform/file-complaint-red-or-yellow-day
- For fire safety, report the fire to your local fire department or 911 if in immediate danger.
Stay Informed of wood burning restrictions:
- Daily advisories and restrictions are published on the county’s Wood Winter Wood Burning Restriction page.
- Advisories and restrictions are shared through social media, including Facebook ,Twitter, Instagram and NextDoor.
- Residents may sign up to receive emails of wood burning advisories and restrictions
- Residents may sign up to receive text alerts by texting START to (503) 994-2876.