Federal public health emergency declared amid Oregon wildfire air quality


PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — A federal public health emergency has been declared in Oregon as numerous wildfires in the state create unhealthy, even hazardous, air quality conditions.

Portland’s air quality has been ranked the worst in the world since last week, as the smoke from more than 30 wildfires shrouds the state.

The declaration was signed by Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar on Wednesday afternoon for the public health emergency that “has existed since September 8, 2020, in the State of Oregon.”

“Oregon was already facing one major public health emergency, with a once-in-a-century pandemic. Now, deadly fires and hazardous air are compounding the public health dangers our communities face,” U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley said in a statement. “We need as much federal support and assistance as we can get to weather this storm and help Oregonians stay healthy and safe during this double crisis.”

Interactive map below:

An air quality alert remains in effect through noon Thursday; however, several spots along the Oregon Coast reported good air quality Wednesday morning.

A weak front is expected to bring light showers across the northern Oregon Coast, western Washington and the north end of the Willamette Valley Wednesday night, which may bring temporary improvements to air quality in the Portland metro area. However, smoke is expected to remain an issue.

More than 30 wildfires have scorched more than 1 million acres in Oregon since last week.

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