Ministry of Health issues mandatory restriction on burning wood due to air pollution from wildfire smoke
September 10, 2022
Smoke from wildfires in Idaho, Washington and Oregon blankets the Portland metro area, leading health officials today, Saturday, September 10, 2022, to release a mandatory wood burning restriction for residents of Multnomah County. This restriction does not apply to the kitchen. Exemptions are available for people in emergency situations.
The air quality burning restriction comes into effect at noon today and will be lifted when conditions improve. Air quality advisories are posted on multco.us/woodsmokestatus. Conditions should improve on Sunday.
The restriction comes with the The Multnomah County Fire Defense Board has issued burning bans for fire safety and an air quality advisory from the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality that says Multnomah County may experience periods of poor air quality through Saturday.
This is the fifth warm season wood burning restriction – also known as a red day – since the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners extended the county’s wood smoke abatement ordinance all year in February 2022, and the first this year due to wildfire smoke and particulate pollution. The others are due to ozone pollution levels on hot days.
While most of Multnomah County is currently in the moderate Air Quality Index (AQI) category, conditions are expected to worsen this Saturday afternoon as temperatures rise, before get some relief Sunday noon. Air quality could reach AQI levels of unhealthy for sensitive groups (orange) and unhealthy for all (red).
For more information on cool places to stay, visit Help for when it’s hot. Protect your health and reduce pollution.
People at risk
Those most at risk of complications from smoke exposure are pregnant women, children, people with pre-existing heart disease, people with chronic lung disease, and the elderly.
People who work outdoors are also at high risk. For those who must work, wear a properly fitted N95 mask and take breaks inside a structure or even in your car.
what should you do
Stay indoors with windows and doors closed (temperatures permitting). If it’s too hot inside, seek cooler indoor air.
- Avoid spending time outdoors and avoid strenuous outdoor exercise.
- If available, set AC to recirculation, use an air purifier with a HEPA filter, or build your own air purifier.
- Avoid being on the roads if visibility deteriorates.
Monitor the air quality near you:
- The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality has a phone app to track air quality.
- If this seems overwhelming, you can find more links to air quality maps below or on our website.
When the air quality improves (AQI yellow or green), even temporarily, ventilate your home to reduce indoor air pollution. People living in homes where it is too hot to stay indoors with the windows closed or who are at risk of smoke-related health effects should seek shelter elsewhere.
Know the Symptoms
The most reported wildfire smoke symptoms include scratchy throat, itchy or watery eyes, stuffy nose, sinus irritation, coughing, difficulty breathing, and fatigue or dizziness.
Mild symptoms of smoke exposure often include:
- burning eyes
- Sore throat
- Production of phlegm
- 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 think you have symptoms of COVID-19. But exposure to smoke can also cause severe and life-threatening respiratory distress, including heart attacks and strokes. If you are in distress, you should immediately dial 9-1-1.
Measure air quality
Wildfires and smoke swept across the west coast. Some air quality monitors may have lost power. Web air quality systems can periodically become overwhelmed with traffic, causing web maps to load slowly or not at all. To find air quality information, visit:
- Oregon Smoke Blog: Local, state, tribal and federal organizations are coordinating to share information about wildfires and smoke.
- Oregon Air Quality Map: The state Department of Environmental Quality maintains a current air quality map. Due to high traffic, the site may slow down or crash. The sites below offer good alternatives.
- EPA Air Quality Map: The US Environmental Protection Agency pulls real-time air quality data from the states of Oregon and Washington.
- Oregon State Fire Map: The Oregon Office of Emergency Management is updating a map of active fires, air quality and closures.
If you can’t access AQI information, the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality shares this Visibility index 5-3-1 to help estimate smoke levels:
- Five miles: Air quality is generally good.
- Three to five miles: Air quality is unhealthy for young children, the elderly, pregnant women, and people with heart or lung disease, asthma, or other respiratory conditions.
- Less than three miles: the air quality is unhealthy for everyone.
- Less than a mile: the air quality is unhealthy for everyone.
Healthy people affected by smoke may have only mild symptoms. But healthy people can also have underlying health conditions that put them at risk. Listen to your body’s signals:
If your eyes are burning, your throat is sore, your lungs are struggling to expand, if you are coughing, stay indoors and focus on creating a “clean room” where air is the as clean as possible.
Wood burning offenses
To report a fire and have it put out, call 911. To report a suspected violation of a mandatory burning restriction and smoke from a recreational fire, contact Multnomah County Environmental Health:
Stay informed of wood burning restrictions: