For release: Aug. 26, 2005
AIR QUALITY SMOKE ADVISORY
What: Concern about unhealthful levels of smoke in Grants Pass, Medford, and the immediate vicinities of Josephine and Jackson Counties on Friday, August 26, 2005, is prompting the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), in conjunction with the Josephine and Jackson County Public Health Departments to issue an Air Quality Smoke Advisory for Grants Pass and Medford area residents -- especially those individuals who may be sensitive to smoke.
The Blossom and Deer Creek Fires have both created large plumes of smoke, which have caused intermittent smoke to settle within the cities of Grants Pass, Medford, and surrounding areas. Although the smoke impacts have been of a short duration, the localized impact for short periods of time might cause health concern for individuals who are sensitive to smoke.
According to John Becker of the Department of Environmental Quality, fine particulates in the air are monitored and averaged on a 24 hour basis. DEQ’s Air Quality Index might indicate a “good” air quality reading for ambient air over that time span, but for short periods of time, the air quality due to the wildfires may be less than favorable. This condition is most noticeable during the morning hours when the ambient air tends to be more stagnant. Winds in the afternoon will generally help carry the smoke out of the southern valleys. It’s during those short periods of impact that sensitive individuals to smoke need to be more careful, Becker says.
Background: Smoke is made up of tiny particles (particulate matter) that can be harmful to breathe, especially for children, older adults and those with asthma and other lung or heart conditions. This particulate matter also reduces visibility, causing the haze that’s been noticeable in the area.
Symptoms that people may experience from smoke include varying degrees of repeated coughing, shortness of breath, scratchy throat, wheezing, chest tightness, heart palpitations, nausea, unusual fatigue, or lightheadedness.
If smoke returns to the area, Environmental and health officials urge local residents to take the following precautions to reduce or eliminate breathing problems or other symptoms from smoke:
· Stay indoors if possible
· Avoid strenuous outdoor activity
· Be aware of smoke concentrations in your area and avoid those areas with highest concentrations
· If you have asthma or suffer from other respiratory problems, follow your asthma or breathing management plan or contact your health provider
Information: Contact the nearest regional or local public health agency for the latest in health conditions from smoke. Conditions can improve or worsen rapidly, depending on your location.
For more information on the effects of smoke, see DEQ’s Web site at: http://www.deq.state.or.us/aq/burning/wildfires/index.htm
For local air quality and particulate questions, contact Anna Kemmerer at the Medford DEQ office at (541) 776-6010, ext 237, Sylvia Mireles of the Josephine County Health Department at (541) 474-5334, and Gary Stevens of the Jackson County Health and Human Services Department at (541) 774-8206.
Oregon Department of Forestry, current wildfire smoke information:
Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, wildfire smoke information; monitors hourly data: http://www.deq.state.or.us/aq/api/wildfire/index.htm
Northwest Large Fire Information Summary: http://www.nwccweb.us/information/fire_info.asp
National Interagency Fire Center: http://www.nifc.gov/
American Lung Association: http://www.lungoregon.org/
Oregon Department of Human Services/Health Division, Asthma Group: http://www.ohd.hr.state.or.us/asthma/
EPA: How Smoke from Fires Can Affect Your Health: http://www.epa.gov/airnow/smoke2/smokecover.html.
NOTE to Editors/Reporters: See DEQ Fact Sheet, “Protecting Your Health from Wildfire Smoke” at: http://www.deq.state.or.us/aq/factsheets/03-ER-003A-Wildfires2004.pdf