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Air quality advisory issued for portions of Southern Oregon

Inciweb photo The Jack fire burns Wednesday along Highway 138 in Douglas County.

With two wildfires in Southern Oregon that have burned more than 20,000 combined acres, the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality has issued an air quality advisory for Klamath and Lake counties — extending into parts of Douglas and Jackson counties.

Air quality was at “unhealthy” levels at 1 p.m. Thursday at a monitor at the Shady Cove School, according to the Oregon Smoke Blog. It had improved to moderate by 3 p.m.

An Interagency Wildland Fire smoke outlook predicts unhealthy air quality Friday for Shady Cove as a growing high-pressure system begins to trap more smoke.

“The area around Shady Cove and Crater Lake may have brief periods of improvement (Thursday), but expect increased smoke with deteriorating conditions overnight,” the outlook stated, adding that smoke conditions may deteriorate further depending on the fire’s behavior.

Down-slope winds were expected Thursday to bring smoke to lower elevations along the Interstate 5 corridor and the Medford area before settling overnight, according to the interagency smoke outlook.

During smoky conditions, state health officials recommend waiting until air quality is good before airing out homes, buying a home air filter or replacing the filter in old ones, and that those with asthma get refills they need on prescriptions, according to the state’s Oregon Smoke Info Twitter account.

Much of the smoke flowing into the Rogue Valley stems from the Jack fire burning east of Roseburg. On Thursday afternoon, the Jack fire was estimated at 4,224 acres, according to Inciweb. Some 327 personnel are working the fire burning in steep, difficult terrain.

The Jack fire has prompted Level 3 “Go” evacuations on Highway 138, between mileposts 43 and 51 in Douglas County, which includes the U.S. Forest Service Apple Creek, Horseshoe Bend and Eagle Rock campgrounds, residences in the Dry Creek community and all residences on Illahee Road, according to the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office.

Level 2 “Be Set” evacuation warnings were issued for residences located between milepost 38 and 43 on Highway 138, which includes the Steamboat Inn and all residences on Brindle Bug and Steelhead Caddis roads — and residences and businesses between milepost 51 and 55, which includes the Soda Springs Powerplant and surrounding areas, according to the sheriff’s office. Under Level 1 “Be Ready” evacuation were all residences and businesses between milepost 55 and 60.

The Bootleg fire burning in Klamath County outside the town of Sprague River was estimated at 16,814 acres and 1% containment Thursday afternoon, according to Inciweb.

Smoke from the fire was “highly visible” from Highway 140 in Klamath County and surrounding areas, and air quality in Klamath Falls is forecast as Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups with brief periods of unhealthy air — similar to Friday conditions — according to an interagency update.

Winds are pushing smoke from the Bootleg fire “significant distances” east and northeast into Eastern Oregon and portions of Idaho.

Reach reporter Nick Morgan at 541-776-4471 or nmorgan@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @MTCrimeBeat.