Smoke from southern Oregon wildfires reaches Eugene
EUGENE, Ore. - The smoke in the air over Eugene had phones ringing off the hook at the Oregon Department of Forestry on Monday.
So where is all that smoke coming from?
It's not a new fire.
Winds have been consistently out of the south all morning Monday.
That means smoke from the Stouts Fire east of Canyonville and the Collier Butte fire west of Grants Pass - or even farther south from fires in Calfornia are blowing across Douglas County and into Lane County, a dispatcher confirmed.
"What you're seeing is smoke blowing in from the fires down south, and it could be a combination of the Stouts Creek Fire, the Cable Crossing Fire, and the Rogue Fire, the way the winds are coming up out of the south. It was just a matter of time before the wind made it to the valley over here," said Fire Chief John Wooten.
Wooten said the smoke could reach as far north as Portland.
"The biggest thing is when you see haze like this that covers a general area, it's not an indication that there's a new fire. What you would look for is a plume to be rising up in the air, or flames," Wooten said.
A NOAA satellite loop shows the movement Monday morning:
The wind is forecast to shift and come more out of the West, which could help clear out the smoke as the day goes on Monday.
However, residents are right to be concerned: forecasters have issued a Red Flag Warning for much of Western Oregon, including the western slope of the Cascades. Thunderstorms in the forecast could spark new wildfires in our area.
"The smoke from wildland fires down south is being pulled into the Southern Willamette Valley and the 911 center is receiving a large call volume," said Chad Minter, chief of the Lane County Fire Defense Board. "Residents of Lane County should call 911 if they see a column of smoke or dark colored smoke in a specific area. At this point they should not be calling 911 for just a haze in the area because that is due to the southern Oregon fires."
With the smoke in the air, officials warn the air quality could cause health problems for some people.
Lane Regional Air Protection Agency said children, seniors, and people with pre-existing heart conditions may notice the effects of the smoke.
For instance, they may feel shortness of breath.
"So if you can stay inside and try to limit the outdoor activities, if not, we just want people to be aware and can follow us on our website," said Jo Niehaus, LRAPA spokesperson.
Niehaus said pet owners should also consider the health of their animals.
"If you do have animals, try to keep them indoors as well and away from outdoor activity as possible. Wildfires happen and we're trying to do the best we can to keep people updated on the conditions and aside from that, we know the firefighters are working hard out there," Niehaus said.
Anyone with asthma should keep inhalers close by and contact a doctor if any light-headed symptoms occur.
The smoke is expected to stay for the next few days.