In what may be a record-setting fire season in Oregon, residents in many parts of the state are getting smoked out.

Desperate for fresh air, they’re willing to drive and stay a few days to escape the dangerous air quality and gritty particulate that gets into their eyes and lungs.

Bettina Hannigan, executive director at the Florence Area Chamber of Commerce, and longtime volunteers in the Chamber’s Visitors’ Center, have noticed more people filtering into Florence, and out of the valleys. They’ve also see an increase in inquiries about Florence’s air quality.

“We call them ‘smoke refugees,’” says Hannigan. “They’re drifting into the Florence area’s hotels and campgrounds to escape hazardous air all over the state.”

“And there’s no fresher air than what comes in off the Pacific Ocean,” she notes.

“We’re getting calls and visits from people rerouting their vacations. They’re contacting us from all up and down the west coast—from Northern California to Central Oregon and Central Washington, even Canada—people are coming from Medford and Grants Pass, Bend and Redmond, Eugene/Springfield, and Portland and Salem.”

While it should be noted that Florence has had a few days with some smoke in the air, Hannigan says it has been minor and short-lived.

“All we need is a slight onshore flow of our typical ocean breeze, which is normal this time of year, and it pushes out the bad air and gives us some of the best air on the planet right here in Florence,” she explains.

In September the Chamber’s Visitors’ Center, 290 Highway 101 (two blocks north of the Siuslaw River Bridge), is open Monday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Saturdays from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. (until 2:00 p.m. beginning September 16), and Sundays 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. For vacation ideas or more information about the Florence area, visit FlorenceChamber.com or call 541-997-3128.