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Wildfire smoke gets in Portland's eyes

TRIBUNE PHOTO: KEVIN HARDEN - Smoky haze gave Saturday morning's sunrise an orange hue, and obscured hills in Southwest Portland. The smoke from wildfires in Eastern Oregon and Washington is expected to stick around the region until late Sunday or Monday.Smell that? It’s the scent of forest fires in the smoky air that drifted into the Willamette Valley early Saturday.

A National Weather Service technician says the smoke is probably going to stick around until late Sunday night or Monday.

Smoke from nearly four dozen fires burning across the Pacific Northwest was caught on the wind as it shifted from northwest to east, pushing hot weather and wildfire smoke up the Columbia River Gorge and into the Portland region, says Gerald Macke, a Portland National Weather Service meteorological technician.


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Visibility in parts of Portland is down to four miles because of the hazy smoke, Macke says. In Hillsboro, visibility is only two miles. Outside the area, visibility is about 10 miles in Salem and Eugene, but those areas could see more smoke by Sunday, he says.

“It’s spread out through the valley and it’s going to hang around,” Macke says. “It’s all funneling this way.

“The lowest spot is the region is the Columbia River Gorge and the smoke is just going up the river and into the valley. Visibility at Government Camp is pretty bad right now too.”

The smoke has prompted dozens of people to call emergency dispatchers thinking there is a big fire somewhere nearby. Portland Fire & Rescue reported a large increase in 911 calls on Saturday, Aug. 22.

Officials with Sandy Fire District No. 72 say the heavy smoke “overwhelmed” emergency dispatchers with calls asking about fire information and the smoky conditions.

Dispatchers in Clark County, Wash., were also inundated by calls, as smoke and ash from Washington’s Cougar Creek fire near Mount Adams blew into the city north of the Columbia River.


Kevin L. Harden is digital media editor for Pamplin Media Group. 503-546-5167. email: kharden@portlandtribune.com
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