There’s fire, so where’s the smoke?

West winds keeping Central Oregon air clear

By Dylan J. Darling / The Bulletin / @DylanJDarling

Published Aug 7, 2014 at 12:02AM

While there’s plenty of fire around the state and Northern California, on Wednesday there wasn’t much smoke in Central Oregon.

Unless new wildfires pop up, clear skies should continue today and Friday, said Joe Solomon, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Pendleton. West winds caused the clear skies in Central Oregon and are expected to continue into the weekend.

“It is bringing smoke-free air from over the Cascades, basically,” he said.

Despite fires burning on the Warm Springs Indian Reservation, close to John Day and near the California-Oregon border, little smoke is making its way to Bend.

Checking data from air monitors around Oregon, Greg Svelund, spokesman for the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, said most of the state was able to breathe clearly Wednesday. Burns stood out on the map, though. Smoke from the fires near John Day blanketed Burns, causing poor air quality.

Field burning near Madras started Wednesday, prompting reports of potential new wildfires to the Central Oregon Interagency Dispatch Center in Prineville.

“We had a lot of calls on it,” said Lisa Clark, dispatch center spokeswoman.

Field burns typically send up a big, black column of smoke.

“(They put) up a lot of smoke very quickly,” she said.

While the smoke plumes from the field burns raised alarm, they didn’t lower air quality in Madras, according to DEQ air monitor data.

Field-burning season in Jefferson County started July 21 and runs until Sept. 19, said Kristi Fisher, manager of the Jefferson County Smoke Management Program, although the first field burns of the season were held Wednesday.

“We are in the middle of our burn season,” she said. Rules restrict field burning on the weekend, holidays and during some events, such as the Airshow of the Cascades later this month.

Seed growers burn fields to clear away wheat stubble and then have enough time to plant seed crops like grass and carrots and prepare the fields for winter, according to the Jefferson County Smoke Management Program website.

“The fields must reach a specific point of growth, or they will not survive the winter,” according to the website.

While winds the rest of the week should keep the air clear in Central Oregon, more thunderstorms in the forecast could bring new wildfires.

The Weather Service expects a slight chance of thunderstorms Friday in Bend.

— Reporter: 541-617-7812, ddarling@bendbulletin.com

More smoke information online

The state — along with city, county, tribal and federal agencies — maintains a blog focused on wildfire smoke during fire season. The blog is at oregonsmoke.blogspot.com. For more information about field burning in Jefferson County go to the Jefferson County Smoke Management Program website at www.jeffcosmoke.com.