August 31, 2023
Multnomah County, Ore. (Aug. 31, 2023) — Despite the rain, wildfire smoke is blanketing portions of the Portland Metro area, leading health officials today, Aug. 31, 2023, to issue a mandatory wood burning restriction for residents in Multnomah County.
Smoke production from the Camp Creek fire and a morning inversion has trapped air pollution in the area. The restriction comes alongside burn bans issued by the Multnomah County Fire Defense Board for fire safety. Recreational fires, agricultural burning, and backyard burning are not allowed. These restrictions do not apply to cooking. Exemptions are available for those in emergency situations.
The County’s air quality burn restriction goes into effect immediately, and will be lifted when conditions improve. Air quality advisories are posted at multco.us/woodsmokestatus.
While most of Portland and West Multnomah County are currently in the “green” to “moderate” Air Quality Index (AQI) categories, air quality conditions have reached unhealthy levels in northeast and eastern portions of the County.
Air quality may stay in the AQI levels of “unhealthy for sensitive groups” (orange) and “unhealthy for all” (red) in some areas of northeast Multnomah County, Gresham, Troutdale, Wood Village and Corbett through the day. Northerly winds and improved mixing should allow for improved conditions tomorrow, Friday, Sept. 1.
Check air quality often at https://fire.airnow.gov/. In areas of unhealthy air quality, sensitive groups should move activities indoors (this includes children, pregnant people and people with pre-existing heart or lung conditions). Everyone else should reduce outdoor activities (short and light) until air quality improves. If you have an air cleaner, turn it on and keep windows closed.
Additional information is posted to our Wildfire Smoke Information page.
What is air pollution?
In the summer, residents in the Pacific Northwest can be exposed to wildfire smoke. Wildfire smoke is composed of gases and fine particles that travel long distances. Exposure to fine particulate matter can cause short-term symptoms, such as respiratory issues, and can have long-term effects on residents’ health, exacerbating existing health disparities in our community.
Air pollution affects us all, but has disproportionate impacts on environmental justice communities — areas that experience inordinate environmental health burdens that have been consciously designed or historically neglected, such as communities of color, low-income neighborhoods, or Native American reservations. Residents can learn more about environmental justice communities in our Environmental Justice Snapshot and Environmental Justice zine.
People at risk
People at the greatest risk of complications from smoke exposure include pregnant women, children, people with pre-existing heart disease, people with chronic lung disease, and older individuals.
People who work outdoors are also at elevated risk. For those who must work, wear a properly fitted N95-rated mask and take breaks inside a structure or even in your car.
What should you do
Stay inside with windows and doors closed (if temperatures allow). If it is too hot indoors, seek cooler indoor air.
- Avoid spending time outside, and avoid strenuous exercise outdoors.
- If available, set AC to recirculate, use an air cleaner with a HEPA filter, or build your own DIY air cleaner.
- Avoid being on the roads if visibility worsens.
Keep an eye on air quality near you:
- The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality has a phone app to track air quality.
- If that is overwhelming, you can find other links to air quality maps below or on our website.
When air quality improves (yellow or green AQI), 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.
Gauging air quality
Wildfires and smoke have swept the West Coast. Some air quality monitors may have lost power. Air quality web systems may periodically get overwhelmed by traffic, causing web-based maps to slow or fail to load. To find air quality information visit:
- EPA Air Quality map: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency pulls real-time air quality data from Oregon and Washington States.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
Wood Burning Violations
To report a fire and get it extinguished, call your local fire department. If you are in danger, call 911. To report a suspected violation of a mandatory burn restriction and smoke from a recreational fire, contact Multnomah County Environmental Health:
Stay Informed of wood burning restrictions: