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Poor air quality from wildfire smoke could stick around through end of summer

The Spruce Lake Fire on August 3, 2017. (InciWeb)

EUGENE, Ore. - The air quality in the Willamette Valley is once again climbing to severe heights, and the problem doesn't seem to be going away any time soon.

According to an alert from the Lane Regional Air Protection Agency, the quality of the air in Lane County has now reached the level of "unhealthy."

LRAPA staff told us they hope to lift this air quality alert by Friday or Saturday, but that doesn't mean we are in the clear - or back to clean air yet.

Jo Niehaus with LRAPA said the air quality levels change during the day, and more smoke is expected to travel our way.

"The northerly winds are getting a little bit stronger in the afternoons and bring down more smoke," said Niehaus. "Pollution levels have been spiking up into the unhealthy for sensitive groups and unhealthy levels, which is not that common in Lane County."

Just because we're seeing smoke in our skies doesn't mean that a wildfire is nearby, however. Niehaus says that much of the smoke polluting our air has traveled south from Canada.

Niehaus said this round of smoke is creating the poor air quality will hopefully end this week, but we might be looking at unhealthy levels for the rest of the summer.

LRAPA said the last time the air was this bad was a few years ago when Oakridge had the Deception Creek Fire in 2014.

The dangers from bad air quality differ for everyone.

"Smoke pollution is measured by particulate matter. The particulate matter that we are looking at ... is especially small particles that are found in smoke," Niehaus said. "Those particles are incredibly tiny, very easy to inhale, and difficult to exhale."

Respiratory problems tend to affect children and seniors.

Niehaus and medical professionals suggest limiting exposure as much as possible by staying inside and limiting energy exertion outside.

LRAPA said the air will clean up once we get the first rainfall, but the first rainy season could begin as early as October.

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