Choking air from Western fires spreads across several states

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PORTLAND, Ore. — Relief from dangerous air spewing from massive wildfires across the West won’t come until later in the week or beyond, forecasters say, and the hazy and gunk-filled skies might stick around for even longer.

People in Oregon, Washington and parts of California were struggling under acrid yellowish-green smog. It seeped into homes and businesses, moved into cars through air conditioning vents and caused the closure of the Oregon Zoo in Portland.

Oregon’s Department of Environmental Quality extended an air quality alert to Thursday after it was to initially expire on Monday. The visibility was so poor that on Monday Alaska Airlines announced it was suspending service to Portland and Spokane, Washington, until Tuesday afternoon.

Some areas of central California blanketed by smoke are not likely to see relief until October, said Dan Borsum, the incident meteorologist for a fire in Northern California.

“It’s going to take a substantially strong weather pattern to move all the smoke,” Borsum told a fire briefing Sunday night. He said smoke from dozens of wildfires in the West and throughout California is pooling in the Central Valley, which already has some of California’s worst air quality even when wildfires are not burning.

In Oregon, places like the Oregon Convention Center in downtown Portland are being used as a smoke advisory shelter where people in need of healthy air quality can go.

Dylan Darling, a spokesman for the state’s department of Environmental Quality, said typically during wildfires in Oregon, such as those in 2017 that carried heavy smoke to the Willamette Valley and Eugene area, people can escape to other areas of the state for clean air.

“That’s what’s standing out — there just isn’t a place in Oregon right now to find fresh air,” Darling said.

—AP stories contributed to this report.

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