At various points Tuesday afternoon, Pendleton had the worst air quality in the state.
Due to wildfires in Washington, Pendleton had a particulate matter of 173 as of 3 p.m., according to the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality.
Considered “unhealthy” by the DEQ’s air quality index, Pendleton’s air quality was considered worse than several sites in Jackson and Josephine counties, which have been inundated with smoke from fires in Southern Oregon and Northern California for weeks.
DEQ spokeswoman Katherine Benenati said the department was issuing an air quality warning for much of the Interstate 84 corridor, including northeast Oregon.
Although the DEQ isn’t attributing the smoke to a specific fire in Washington, there are several fires in central Washington that have burned thousands of acres and are far from containment.
According to a DEQ press release, the smoke is expected to remain in northeastern Oregon through the weekend, although light winds may clear some of it on Thursday.
The Umatilla County Health Department issued its own advisory Tuesday afternoon where it rated Pendleton and Milton-Freewater’s air quality as unhealthy.
The department is urging the elderly, children, and people with heart conditions to stay indoors while advising all residents to limit their strenuous outdoor activities.
“Lay low a little bit,” Umatilla County Health Director Jim Setzer said in an interview.
Umatilla County Emergency Manager Tom Roberts said his department is treating the smoke like other adverse conditions like smoke or high winds.
In such situations, aircraft like helicopters and drones could be grounded.
But despite the smoke, Roberts said his department focus remains at the source: wildfires.