Heat wave, fires bring smoke to the valley

Several wildfires around the state of Oregon have swept smoke into the valley, forcing agencies to issue unhealthy air quality readings and cautioning those with breathing issues to remain indoors. 

Last week, with temperatures soaring over 100 degrees again, air quality continued to deteriorate. 

"The smoke particulates in the atmosphere irritate the lungs, making breathing more difficult," said Robert Stalbow, Respiratory Therapist at PeaceHealth Sacred Heart Medical Center at RiverBend. "We recommend that people in the higher risk groups reduce their exposure to the hot outdoor air for the duration of this weather event. These groups include infants, children, pregnant women and adults over age 65, as well as those with asthma, respiratory infection, diabetes, lung or heart disease, or those who have had a stroke."

Lane Regional Air Protection Agency (LRAPA) measured air quality in Cottage Grove, on Monday, September 4, at 177 or "unhealthy." Air quality in neighboring Eugene was measured at 411; hazardous. 

Temperatures in Cottage Grove came in well above average just before the Labor Day weekend. On Sunday, September 3, the temperature on record was 96 degrees; 16 degrees above the day's average temperature of 80 degrees. 

The hot weather has fueled wildfires burning around the state as well as in neighboring California and Washington. Los Angeles County has issued a state of emergency due to the LaTuna fire which has burned nearly 6,000 acres while crews in Oregon continue to battle 18 wildfires. 

Oregon State Police announced on Sunday that the cause of the Eagle Creek Trail fire--burning 3,000 acres--was likely individuals setting off fireworks. The fire trapped 153 hikers overnight and continues to burn. 

Evacuations continue with Lane County Emergency Services issuing a Level 1 (Be Ready) evacuation order for the McKenzie Hwy. Corridor from Hwy. 126 to Rainbow to McKenzie Bridge and Belknap Springs. 

For up to date evacuation orders, please visit flashalert.net or download the app for up to the minute information.