smoke

Traffic and pedestrians at the intersection of 3rd Street and Greenwood Avenue in Bend on Friday, Sept. 11, 2020.

Five Oregon cities set all-time records for air quality in the past week, due to smoke from dozens of wildfires.

Portland, Eugene, Bend, Medford and Klamath Falls surpassed the mark according to a study of current and historical Air Quality Index (AQI) records by the state Department of Environmental Quality. The Lane Regional Air Protection Agency also contributed to the study.

AQI, first developed in 1976, ranks air quality. The version used by Oregon has five steps: good, moderate, unhealthy, very unhealthy and hazardous.

All five cities set new records for poor air quality, each surpassing marks in September 2017 when the state experienced major wildfires.

Prior to the current fires, Medford was the only Oregon city to have experienced a "hazardous" air quality level, one day each in 1987 and 2017.

Last week, Eugene had five hazardous days, Bend and Medford had three, Portland had two and Klamath Falls had one.

Portland has never recorded a day had a day in which the AQI reach "very unhealthy." It surpassed that mark twice last week.

An EO Media Group analysis of statistics from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and international air monitoring sites showed Oregon had the worst air in the nation and likely the world at points last week. The EPA has 36 monitoring stations spread around Oregon, which can be found at AirNow.gov.

On Saturday night, an EPA-monitored station in Madras, Jefferson County, had the highest AQI in the United States. 

Overall, 20 of Oregon’s 36 reporting locations on the EPA site were rated as “hazardous.” Five more locations that had recorded hazardous levels in previous days were offline. Only Coos Bay reported better air: "Moderate."

The Department of Environmental Quality said shifting winds and possible rain could improve air quality in parts of the state by Thursday. But a return to "good" levels that were common before will take longer. 

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