Smoke drifting in from Chetco Bar fire in Curry County pushed Ashland's air quality into an unhealthy category over a 24-hour period ending Monday afternoon, according to the National Weather Service.
The 24-hour air-quality reading updated at 5:30 p.m. Monday from the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality showed Ashland's air hit a level considered "unhealthy for sensitive groups." By that time, however, the air quality level had dropped to moderate.
Medford's air quality reached the "unhealthy" level, but the reading Monday afternoon also listed its air quality in the moderate category.
The Chetco Bar fire blew up over the weekend, growing to 92,000 acres and leading to calls for 3,000 residents north and east of Brookings to evacuate. At least three homes had been destroyed by the fire when it turned toward the coast, pushed by Chetco effect winds.
According to the DEQ readings, Medford's air hit its worst at 175 micrograms per cubic meter at 5 p.m. Sunday and improved throughout the night. Anything over 150 micrograms per cubic meter is considered unhealthy. Ashland hit 118 micrograms per cubic meter over the 24-hour period. By 5:30 p.m. Monday, the levels had dropped to 66 micrograms.
NWS meteorologist Charles Smith said a wind shift pushed the smoke in from Curry County to the valley, causing smoky air and low visibility around the Medford-Ashland area.
"We have seen some improvement since yesterday, but we will still have smoke until this evening," Smith said Monday. "It will be a problem for a while."
Readings at Shady Cove remained at the "unhealthy" level because of smoke from a wildfire in Douglas County, Smith said. He said it's unlikely smoke from that fire would drift to the Medford-Ashland area.
Smith advised Rogue Valley residents to avoid exercising outdoors with the current air quality.