Agencies throughout the Columbia River Gorge are responding to hazardous smoke blanketing the region and much of the state.
Citizen Alerts were sent to residents of Wasco County Friday and Saturday, warning of hazardous air quality due to thick wildfire smoke and informing residents that protective KN-95 masks were being made available at distribution sites throughout the county Friday and Saturday.
A dense smoke advisory issued by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration remains in effect through Monday, Sept. 14. The advisory warns of visibility of 1/4 mile or less at times in dense smoke.
Due to the poor air quality, Wasco County with the assistance of Mosier, The Dalles, Maupin, Tygh Valley, Wamic and Dufur began handing out KN-95 masks Friday. Wamic Rural Fire Protection District distributed masks Friday night, as did Dufur at the Dufur School parking lot and Maupin at city hall. Masks were made available in TyghValley at the Tygh Valley Store during business hours, the Moiser Post Office Friday night, and Walters Corner Store for Juniper Flats and Pine Grove during business hours.
The smoke advisory was issued statewide, and was extended Monday to continue through Thursday evening, Sept. 17.
According to state smoke maps, The Dalles, Hood River and White Salmon had a pollution raiing of "Hazardous," with some of the highest readings in the state on Monday morning.
Both Wasco and Hood River counties are also making evacuation sites available for those seeking to evacuate fires in Clackamas County and elsewhere in the state. Evacuation areas in Wasco County are Riverfront Park and Tygh Valley Fairgrounds. In Hood River County, The Port of Hood River has opened several of its waterfront sites in Hood River. Lot 1, the Event Site, the Marina Boat Launch parking lot, and the DMV parking lot are all open for overnight parking for evacuees.
Those venturing outdoors are encouraged to wear KN-95 masks, which filter out small particulates. Those with respiratory illnesses should remain indoors to avoid inhaling smoke. If driving, slow down, use your headlights, and leave plenty of distance ahead of you.
White Salmon mayor takes emergency measures
White Salmon Mayor Marla Keethler issued a proclamation Monday, Sept. 14, declaring a state of emergency due to poor air quality and fire hazards.
The city faces a double threat: White Salmon’s air quality specifically has been recorded at various points in recent days as the highest level in the world, as well as the region; and there are limited city firefighters and public safety personnel available, according to the declaration.
"Extreme conditions and likely demands placed on firefighting and other public safety resources in the event of a local wildfire event make it necessary that extraordinary measures be taken to prevent and reduce the risk of wildfires within the city, and to suppress any fires that may occur," the proclamation states.
In response, the proclamation orders all outdoor activities that could cause a fire are immediately suspended, including but not limited to backyard fires, barbecues, candles, and gas or electric yard/construction equipment that creates sparks.
The proclamations also order "that all citizens refrain from visiting city parks, natural areas, and/or trails during this time of extreme fire danger and hazardous air quality.
"It is recommended that all citizens refrain from non-essential outdoor activities," the order states.
The emergency proclamation was set to expire Oct. 1 or when the risk is abated, whichever occurs first, and will be confirmed by the White Salmon City Council at the next regularly scheduled city council meeting.