Southerly winds blew smoke into Bend this morning, causing air quality to spike to unhealthy levels for sensitive groups.
The smoke came from a mix of pile burning on private land and a smoldering prescribed fire, all near La Pine and Sunriver, said Lauren Miller, fire and fuels planner for the Deschutes National Forest. She said the private burning occurred today at the Vandervert Ranch and Thousand Trails subdivisions.
“The smoke from (those) is tracking right into Bend,” Miller said this morning.
Smoke is also rising from 148 acres burned by Deschutes National Forest firefighters near Wickiup Reservoir Monday, she said. Another 110 acres could be burned there today. Firefighters scrapped their initial plans Monday to light prescribed fires closer to Bend, off China Hat Road, in hopes of keeping smoke away from town. But winds blowing from the south brought the smoke from Wickiup, as well as the private burning, into town.
The smoke gathered in Bend throughout the morning, pushing a Department of Environmental Quality air sensor near the Deschutes River in town to levels deemed unhealthy for sensitive groups. Those groups include the very young and old, as well as people with respirator conditions. The DEQ’s Bend Pump Station sensor reached unhealthy for sensitive groups levels at 9 a.m. this morning, according to DEQ data.
A shift in the wind expected this afternoon should bring relief from the smoke in Bend, Miller said.
Winds should change from coming out of the south to coming out of the north or northeast, said Marilyn Lohmann, a forecaster with the National Weather Service in Pendleton. An afternoon switch in wind is typical in Central Oregon and usually happens around 2 p.m.
“Hopefully that will take that smoke back south,” she said.
The Forest Service plans more prescribed burning later this week, Miller said. Prescribed fires are planned for Wednesday near Camp Sherman and south of Crescent. There will also likely be prescribed fires on Thursday and Friday but the locations for those have yet to be determined.