Deception Complex pushes air quality to red in Oakridge

OAKRIDGE, Ore. -- The air quality index reached the red, "unhealthy" range in Oakridge and the surrounding areas Wednesday as smoke billows from the Deception Creek Complex of fires, the Lane County Health and Human Services department said Wednesday afternoon.

The growing Deception Complex fire is burning about two miles west of Oakridge.

The Environmental Protection Agency defines the red, Unhealthy air quality rating by saying "Everyone may begin to experience health effects; members of sensitive groups may experience more serious health effects."

People living in Oakridge should limit their time outdoors - especially children, seniors, and people with pre-existing heart and lung conditions, said Lane Public Health spokesman Jason Davis.

Smoke pushed air quality warnings to moderate in the surrounding cities like Cottage Grove, Creswell, Eugene and Springfield. The yellow, "moderate" level is still considered safe by the Lane Regional Air Protection Agency.

Willamette National Forest officials said residents can expect to see smoke through the rest of the summer.

Smoke levels in eastern Lane County have been higher for several days as the Deception Complex grows just west of Oakridge.

Winds may push ground-level smoke into the Cottage Grove and Creswell areas and other parts of Lane County.

"We would like to warn all residents in Lane County to be aware of smoke levels in their area," Jo Niehaus, a spokesperson for LRAPA, said in a press release. LRAPA does hourly updates on the air quality around the county.

Even at the moderate level, Niehaus said air quality can be a health concern for those who are unusually sensitive to air pollution.

"Seniors, children, and people who have heart or lung diseases are at greater risk to be affected by smoke. If you feel any health impacts that are smoke related, please consult with your doctors," he said.

Fire officials said the lightning sparked fires are burning a combined 850 acres near Deception Creek, about 2 miles west of Oakridge. The complex is about 50 percent contained.

The smoke column above the fire grew Tuesday as temperatures spiked into the nineties. | More news on Oregon Wildfires