Carol G. Newman
Astoria residents woke up to a sprinkle of ash on their cars Tuesday morning, while people in Knappa reported seeing small flakes of ash falling throughout the day like snow.
No air quality warnings have been issued in Clatsop County yet, even as dozens of wildfires rage across the state, including a fire caused by fireworks in the Columbia River Gorge that broke out Saturday in the Eagle Creek area. That 20,000-acre fire has since spread toward Portland and jumped the river into Washington state.
However, officials recommend caution and common sense at the coast as ash and smoke haze from that fire descend on Clatsop County.
Schools limited outdoor activities Tuesday. At Astoria High School, all sports practices and other outdoor activities were moved inside. Staff anticipated making a similar decision today, but wouldn’t know for sure until the afternoon. A cross-country meet in Tualatin that Astoria students expected to attend was canceled due to air quality concerns farther inland. In Seaside, boys and girls soccer was canceled Tuesday.
Astoria City Engineer Jeff Harrington said he checked with staff on Tuesday to make sure no one was doing especially strenuous work outdoors — a precaution Jonah Dart-McLean, parks maintenance supervisor for the city’s Parks and Recreation Department, also followed.
Dart-McLean said they are trying to limit exposure to employees outdoors today as well by focusing on indoor work. Elsewhere, doctors have advised anyone with pulmonary conditions such as asthma to stay home.
The blaze in the Gorge has forced hundreds of people to leave their homes and shut down a highway. The Coast Guard also closed 20 miles of the Columbia River to all vessel traffic east of Portland Tuesday. The Captain of the Port deemed it was unsafe for vessels to travel the river from Reed Island to Bonneville Dam because of hot ash and firefighting aircraft landing on the river.
So far, the ash has fallen in such small amounts that Astoria Public Works is not worried about water quality issues at Bear Creek Reservoir. The Oregon Department of Forestry’s Astoria office sent one engine and two people to help fight the fire in the Gorge.
As the winds shift, it is expected the air at the coast will clear.
The National Weather Service in Portland, meanwhile, issued a red flag warning for lightning in the region, including the coast, through this evening.