Air quality alert in effect through at least Friday

A Klamath National Forest map shows the extent of the McKinney Fire as of Sunday evening.
August 1, 2022

McKinney Fire near Yreka grows to more than 50,000 acres

By Bert Etling, Ashland.news

Wildfire smoke from the McKinney Fire west of Yreka on Sunday prompted the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to issue an air quality alert for Jackson and Klamath counties Sunday, with the alert period expected to last at least through Friday, Aug. 5.

Air quality in Ashland spent most of Sunday at more than 150 on the Air Quality Index (AQI) scale, making it unhealthy for everybody, according to AirNow, which partners with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and other government agencies. Hourly readings peaked at 184 at 10 a.m., according to AirNow records, up from a high of 159 on Saturday, the day after the fire started about 22 miles southeast of Ashland.

A National Forest map shows the closed portion of the Pacific Crest Trail in red, stretching from Etna Summit on the south to Mount Ashland on the north.

The McKinney Fire started about 2:15 p.m. Friday about 6 miles west of Yreka near the Klamath River and Highway 96 southwest of Beaver Creek. Its cause is under investigation, but it happened in an area where lightning strikes had occurred.

After exploding Friday night and Saturday morning to more than 30,000 acres burned, the McKinney Fire grew to 51,468 acres blackened as of the 7:30 p.m. update Sunday, with 0% containment. The Klamath National Forest reported a total of 648 personnel from a variety of agencies were on hand battling the fire.

Late Sunday evening there were reports of more lightning in the McKinney Fire area, but also some rain.

The entire area north to the Oregon border was under a mandatory evacuation order, which extends to the west side of Yreka, which was under an evacuation warning.

The Klamath National Forest has closed the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) in areas impacted by the McKinney Fire. Hiking is not possible from the northern California section of the PCT to the south of Mt. Ashland.

Jackson Wellsprings on the north side of Ashland is offering free camping through Sunday, Aug. 7, for any PCT hikers, as well as use of the facilities for meeting, organizing and showering. Free wifi is available.

A shelter for those evacuated from the fire area opened in Ashland at the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at 111 Clay St.

Smoke precautions

Smoke levels can change rapidly depending on weather, the DEQ noted in suggesting people check current conditions on the Oregon Smoke Information Blog, DEQ’s Air Quality Index, or by downloading the free OregonAIR app on smartphones.

Smoke can irritate the eyes and lungs and worsen some medical conditions, DEQ warned in the alert. People most at risk include infants and young children, people with heart or lung disease, older adults and pregnant people.

It’s recommended people stay inside if possible. Keep windows and doors closed. If it’s

too hot, run air conditioning on recirculate or consider moving to a cooler location. Use a high efficiency particulate air filter in indoor ventilation systems or portable air purifiers. Avoid strenuous outdoor activity.

When air quality improves to moderate or healthy (yellow — 50-100 —  or green — less than 50 — on the Air Quality Index), it’s suggested people open windows and doors to air out homes and businesses.

N95 or P100 respirators approved by NIOSH may offer protection, but must be properly selected and worn, recommends DEQ, which suggests people select a NIOSH-approved respirator with a N, R, or P alongside the number 95, 99 or 100. For additional information, visit the Oregon DEQ website at oregon.gov/deq.

Source: News releases from the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality and Klamath and Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forests.Email Ashland.news Executive Editor Bert Etling at betling@ashland.news or call or text him at 541-631-1313.

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Bert Etling

Bert Etling

Bert Etling is the executive editor of Ashland.news. Email him at betling@ashland.news.

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