News, Wildfires

Bedrock, Priceboro fires affecting air quality

The faint smell of smoke is reminding Oregonians of wildfire season’s yearly return, with 26 active fires across the state and 49,904 acres having already burned. 

In and around Lane County, the Bedrock Fire and more recent Salmon Creek and Priceboro fires are most affecting our region. 

Located in the Fall Creek area, the Bedrock wildfire was discovered on July 22 near Bedrock Campground. At press time Tuesday afternoon, the fire had covered 13,684 acres and was 5% contained. The cause is under investigation. 

From the campground, in driving miles, the fire is located approximately 26 miles from Pleasant Hill, 33 miles from Springfield, 35 miles from Creswell, and 45 miles from Cottage Grove.

Despite their valiant efforts, the fire still surpassed the ability of local forces to fight it, prompting the need for two incident management teams administered by the Oregon State Fire Marshal. The fire team roster is up to 786 personnel. 

BOB WILLIAMS / THE CHRONICLE
The Priceboro Wildfire, as seen from just off I-5 North on Diamond Hill Road, on Saturday, Aug. 5.

As of an Aug. 1 community meeting, 90-95% of the forest’s trees are predicted to survive as the fire mainly occupies the forest’s underbrush with flames only up to four feet in length.

Firefighters have prioritized protecting the inholding within the perimeter of the fire, which has been successfully protected, and preventing the fire from expanding west, north, and south. As of press time, the fire’s been moving southwest to northeast, and weather conditions have been stable, with calm winds suggesting the fire has little chance of moving west.

Salmon Creeek Fire

Southeast of the Bedrock Fire, the Salmon Fire, located about 3 miles outside of Oakridge, has prompted evacuation warnings near the town. Discovered Monday, Aug. 6, by press time, the fire covered 100 acres and its percentage contained was not yet available.

On Aug. 7, the fire was declared a branch of the Bedrock Fire and resources from the Bedrock Fire have been shared to aid the effort against the Salmon Fire.

Priceboro Fire

Located near Harrisburg in Linn County, the human-caused Priceboro Fire was reported on Aug. 4. Located approximately 10 miles north of Springfield, the Priceboro Fire covers 309.5 acres and is 45% contained. 

Since its discovery, fire crews have been working tirelessly and successfully to contain the fire and protect those in surrounding communities. The Oregon Department of Forestry, Oregon State Fire Marshal, private landowners, and private contractors have all been working in a joint effort against the fire.

Nearby residents in Harrisburg and other surrounding areas are already experiencing the ramifications of the fire. While still open and operating, the fire and smoke have been visible from Interstate 5. The public has been asked to avoid taking roads nearby the fire. 

Air quality

Wildfires prompt air-quality concerns. Going into this year’s wildfire season, Oregon already stands at a disadvantage. 

Oregon’s rainfall in the past year has been 10 inches below average, and since May 16, the local area has only received a quarter inch of rain, according to Rebecca Muessle, incident meteorologist. 

On Tuesday, the AQI in Springfield, Cottage Grove, Pleasant Hill, and Creswell stands in the 0-50 range. The 0-50 range is considered good, with little to no health risks associated with air exposure. 

However, if the AQI surpasses 50, precautions may need to be taken for members of sensitive groups such as people with heart or lung disease, pregnant people, diabetics, and those who are very young or very old. Precautions include:

• Staying indoors and avoiding outside activity

• Closing all windows and doors

•  Closing AC units’ fresh air intake

•  Using the recirculate mode for AC when driving.

•  Using an air filte

These same precautions are also advised for the general public if the AQI surpasses 150.  Keep up to date on air quality level changes here: tinyurl.com/LaneCountyAQI.

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