Bootleg fire

In this photo provided by the Bootleg Fire Incident Command, columns of smoke from the Bootleg Fire rise behind a water tender in Southern Oregon on Friday, July 16, 2021.

Baker County has so far missed the big wildfires burning in Oregon and elsewhere in the West, but the county hasn’t avoided the most noxious of their byproducts.

Smoke.

With a persistent pattern of southwesterly winds at higher altitudes, smoke from the Bootleg fire in Klamath and Lake counties has wafted into Baker County.

That blaze, which exceeded 300,000 acres on Sunday, July 18, is the nation’s biggest.

On Monday morning, the air quality in Baker City was the worst of any measuring stations in Oregon.

During the morning, the air quality index, measured by a sensor on the roof of the David J. Wheeler Federal Building, 1550 Dewey Ave., ranged from 156 to 165.

That’s in the “unhealthy” category on the air quality index.

As of 8 a.m. on Monday, only one other measuring station — at Cove City Hall — was recording air quality in the unhealthy category. Cove’s reading at 8 a.m. was 151, compared with 156 in Baker City.

Enterprise’s air quality index at that time was 102, La Grande’s was 83, and Ontario’s was 78. Other stations in the region were in the “good” category, including John Day (50), Burns (48) and Hermiston (25).

Baker City’s air quality, which had been in the good category Friday, July 16, began to deteriorate Saturday afternoon. The index rose into the “moderate” category as of 5 p.m. Saturday, then into the “unhealthy for sensitive groups” range at 2 a.m. on Sunday.

The index dropped back to the moderate range Sunday afternoon but then jumped by 50 points, from 107 to 157, between 10 p.m. and 11 p.m. Sunday.

The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality issued an air quality advisory for Baker County Monday morning, and the agency expects the advisory to continue at least through Wednesday, July 21. Hourly updates at https://oraqi.deq.state.or.us/home/map

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