The future of air quality and wildfire smoke in Oregon

“I’ll count to three this time and we’ll clap after three, ok? One. Two. Three…”

Dylan Darling and Lauren Wirtis simultaneously clap into their microphones – a trick that makes it easier to align their separate recordings. You know in movies when the person says “take six!” and then snap the clapper board shut? Same thing.

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DEQ’s vehicle inspection program gets record high marks from customers

You might think customers grumble when they drive their car into one of DEQ’s vehicle inspection stations – it’s time out of their day, after all, and it costs money. But think again. Over the past three months, surveys show a stunning 98.8 percent customer satisfaction with the Vehicle Inspection Program.

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Cottonwood Crossing Summer Institute marks eight years of outdoor learning

DEQ helped launch the program, where high school students earn college credit studying the John Day River watershed

For eight years, high school students in rural communities have earned college credits and learned about watershed science in the outdoor classroom provided by the Cottonwood Crossing Summer Institute. The program includes hands-on learning at Cottonwood Canyon State Park, Oregon’s largest at 8,000 acres. 2021 was another success!

With all the surface water from the John Day River basin flowing through the park, Cottonwood Canyon is an ideal place for STEM-centered outdoor learning, including a fuller appreciation for the river’s connection to upstream communities. Students are able to study the John Day River watershed from its uppermost reaches to the Columbia River confluence – its seasons, histories, economies, communities and biomes.

Photo credit: CCSI, 2019

The program also provides career pathways in fields such as recreation management, hydrology, geology, botany, wildlife sciences, photojournalism, technical/descriptive writing, history, renewable energy technologies and communications and public speaking.

The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality helped launch the institute in partnership with the Eastern Oregon Regional Solutions Program, Gilliam and Wheeler counties, Oregon Parks and Recreation Department, Eastern Oregon University, BLM Prineville District, John Day and Snake River Resource Advisory Council, U.S. Forest Service, NRCS, Oregon Water Enhancement Board, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and Oregon Water Resource Department.

Learn more about Cottonwood Crossing Summer Institute.

For information about community and economic development projects across the state, please visit:

DEQ’s Regional Solutions Team webpage.

Oregon’s Regional Solutions webpages.

– Randy Jones, Regional Solutions Coordinator for Oregon’s Eastern Region/Northeast and Greater Eastern Region

Episodes 1-3: Where There’s Smoke

Listen to this! @OregonDEQ launched a podcast called #GreenState, and the first 3 episodes are about the history of air quality in Oregon, #OregonFires2020, the forecast for smoke in coming years, and how to stay healthy during poor air quality.

DEQ kicked off its podcast with a three-part series called Where There’s Smoke, which focuses on air quality and wildfire smoke. Something Oregonians have already experience much of this summer. The series covers the past, present and future of air quality. Hosts Lauren Wirtis and Dylan Darling talk with experts from DEQ, the U.S. Forest Service, Lane Regional Air Protection Agency, and Oregon Health Authority.

Listen to the podcast on: SoundCloud, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts.

Most important resources mentioned throughout this series:

Part 1 – The Past

In the inaugural podcast episode, Lauren and Dylan talk with experts about the history of air quality in Oregon – what it was like, how DEQ monitoring began, and how regulations evolved over time.

A Look at Oregon’s Field Burning in the Willamette Valley, 1978


Part 2 – The Present

The second part of the Where There’s Smoke series is dedicated to the present – namely the September 2020 wildfires. What led to those wildfires, how bad was the air quality, what did it mean to also have COVID going on, and what resources are available to protect your air?

OPB article from September 2020.


  • Introduction
  • Background of forestry practices [3:40]
  • Air quality advisories in Oregon [8:25]
  • Air quality index [10:50]
  • How air quality advisories work [13:05]
  • CAUTION: Talking more specifically about Sept 2020 wildfires
    • September 2020 wildfire impact to the air monitoring network [17:25]
    • Wildfires, smoke and COVID [20:20]
  • What you can do [23:45]

Part 3 – The Future

The third and final part of the Where There’s Smoke series is dedicated to the future of air quality and wildfire smoke in Oregon. Air quality issues from wildfire smoke are not going away, but DEQ and its partner agencies are all hard at work determining ways to mitigate smoke and its health impacts, and provide more resources to Oregonians. In part 3, we focus on this work and what Oregonians can expect to see in the future.

Wildfires and smoke in Oregon aren’t going away. This image reflects data from the Wildfire Smoke Trends Report for 2020.


  • Introduction
  • Future of air quality in Oregon [1:30]
  • What we’re doing to address air quality impacts from wildfire smoke [5:45]
  • Key take-aways [27:55]

Bonus – Fire Clouds

DEQ and Oregon State University conduct survey on how Oregonians heat their homes

Data needed for air quality research

The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality is partnering with Oregon State University to find out how people in Oregon heat their homes and the effects on air quality throughout the state.

To gather this data, DEQ’s Air Quality Division and OSU’s Consumer Insight and Market research group in Corvallis, Oregon are conducting a survey of residential home occupants in Oregon.

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Oregon DEQ releases wildfire smoke trends report for 2020

The air quality at Mirror Pond in Bend measured in the Hazardous range on Sept. 14, 2020.

The number of unhealthy air quality days caused by wildfires are increasing across Oregon. In 2020, those living here experienced the worst air quality ever recorded in the state.

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From landfill to housing: Cleanup begins at Stevens Ranch in Bend

Meandering through the sagebrush and juniper trails at the Stevens Road Tract in southeast Bend, a hiker might never suspect they are walking over acres of buried trash.

Decades-old tires, building materials containing asbestos and household trash fill in former holes and collapsed lava tubes on about 40 acres of the newly planned 382-acre mixed-use housing and commercial development called Stevens Ranch. And soon, much of that trash will be cleaned up and either recycled or deposited in a modern landfill that’s built to protect people and wildlife from trash and the pollution it can create.

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Jackson Dougan’s background and experience bring a unique perspective to DEQ

Jackson Dougan arrived at DEQ a little over two years ago, after completing a Master of Science in Global Change: Ecosystem Science & Policy from the University College Dublin in Ireland, as well as working in the New York State’s Office of the Attorney General and at the Environmental Defense Fund, among other places. He currently works as a natural resource specialist in the Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program.

As a proud member of the LGBTQIA2S+ community, we thought this month would be a good time to check in with Jackson to see what he has been up to and if he has any recommendations for those who would like to learn more about his community.

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Gov. Brown signs bill to continue, expand EV rebates

Governor Kate Brown this week signed legislation to expand access to electric vehicles and charging infrastructure, particularly to people with low incomes and people of color.

By removing the current sunset on funding, House Bill 2165 will allow the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality to continue offering rebates to those who buy electric vehicles.

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Your DEQ Online update: All systems go!

Ramesh Manickam, Your DEQ Online Risk Manager, is working with the new data management system.

Nearly three weeks into the official launch of Your DEQ Online, the agency’s new data management system, responses have been overwhelmingly positive.

“It has been very smooth,” said Ramesh Manickam, who serves as risk manager for the massive technology project. “We have not had any problems so far.”

Your DEQ Online allows regulated industries to conduct business with DEQ entirely online, including permits, certifications and licenses. It also offers electronic payments for fees and fines. The new system is being phased in over two years.

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