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Wildfires spread haze throughout the state

Smoke from wildfires currently burning in the southern, central and eastern regions of Oregon has spread throughout most of the state, the Oregon Department of Forestry reported, reducing visibility, but having minor impacts on air quality.

Haze has impacted the Gorge as of late, particularly in the late afternoon and evening, all but blotting out the mountains from view.

InciWeb, a U.S. government fire-tracking website, lists over 30 active wildfires in the state of Oregon. Most are far away from the Gorge, the closest being the 116-acre Skyline Fire, part of the larger 10,447-acre complex known as the Logger Unit Fires that are burning east of the Mt. Hood National Forest on the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs Reservation.

The closest fire in Washington is the Station Fire, burning 8 miles northeast of Goldendale in Klickitat County. Washington Department of Natural Resources first reported the fire Monday night and listed it as “50+” acres in size as of press time. One structure was also listed as threatened.

ODF reported Monday an “upper level flow” of air has been “transporting wildfire smoke from southwest Oregon and northern California over most of the state,” but noted that “most of the smoke is aloft with some particulate settling out and degrading surface air quality a little.”

In a news release, ODF explained that the dispersion of wildfire smoke is varied and is tied to the stability of the atmosphere as well as the speed and direction of the wind.

“A stable atmosphere holds smoke to the ground and an unstable atmosphere allows smoke to rise and dissipate,” the agency explained. “Smoke is typically mixed to higher altitudes during the afternoon, when daytime heating destabilizes the air mass. Conversely, smoke tends to settle near the ground and in drainages during the overnight and early morning hours.”

ODF expected a change in the weather would “bring in slightly cooler and more onshore flow over the state” Wednesday through Friday, which would “slowly clear much of the smoke aloft and near the surface through most of the state except the extreme south and those areas downwind of active burning east of the Cascades.”

Despite the smoke, the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality’s air monitoring sensors have generally been indicating “good” air quality west of the Cascades and “moderate” air quality east of the mountains. The closest monitoring site to Hood River is located in the Cherry Heights section of The Dalles and has been registering good to moderate air quality over the past couple days. The Hood River County Department of Environmental Health currently does not have any smoke advisories for the county.

To view the DEQ’s map of air quality monitoring stations, go to http://www.deq.state.or.us/aqi/index.aspx. Data is generally updated 15-20 minutes past the hour.

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