'We could smell it': Forest fire smoke floods Willamette Valley

EUGENE, Ore. - Peg Morton and her friend Carrie Andrews never miss their daily walk.

But Thursday's was a little different.

"We've known that we needed to take the walk before the smoke settled in," said Morton.

Hazy smoke from the Pole Creek Fire near Sisters filled the Willamette Valley, making exercise routines - even looking at scenic views - a little tricky.

"Of course we always look for Sisters mountains, or I always do," said Morton, "and of course they're not visible at all."

Up at the top of Skinner Butte in Eugene, walkers and hikers were still out enjoying the warm weather, despite the smoke.

"I have hay fever. I know when things are like this, it's probably worse," said hiker Branislav Pesic. "Runny nose, watery eyes, itchy throat."

By 11:30 Thursday morning, particulate matter in the air had already reached the moderate range at 75.

Dr. Candice Rohr with the Allergy & Asthma Center, said a normal range for the Eugene/Springfield area is between 0 and 25.

"Usually anything above 50 is of concern, because ours is usually so low here," she said. "We actually have really clean air most of the time, but then when we suddenly get a bump up in poor air quality, people will feel it sooner."

She said it can take up to a few days before patients will start feeling symptoms. And even the healthiest people can start feeling sick.

"The upper airways, they might have more sinus congestion and swelling, and just get increased mucus production," she said. "It may feel like they're getting a cold."

And if you have to exercise outside, she said it's best to do in the early morning hours.

"If it gets really hot like it is today, there's usually an inversion layer that may hold the pollution closer to the ground," said Rohr. "So it would be better again, to get out when it was cooler."

As for Morton and Andrews, they said until the air gets better, they scaling back their walking routine.

"I think it's probably a good thing to not breathe any more than you can help," said Andrews.

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