News Release

For release: Sept. 21, 2012

Contacts:
Frank Messina, DEQ Air Quality Program, Bend, 541-633-2019
William Knight, DEQ Communications and Outreach, Portland, 503-229-5680; Cell: 503-757-1889

Health information contacts:
Kathleen Vidoloff, Oregon Health Authority, 971-673-1012

Deschutes County contacts:
Tom Kuhn, Deschutes County, 541-322-7410
Anna Johnson, Deschutes County, 541-280-5263

Threat of Elevated Smoke Levels in Several Oregon Communities Will Continue Until Wildfires Halted

The Pole Creek fire near Sisters continues to send smoke into the community and surrounding areas. Oregon DEQ, Oregon Health Authority and Deschutes County have teamed up to provide the latest health information.

Shifting weather patterns pushed smoke from wildfires across the Northwest, including the Pole Creek fire near Sisters, into the Willamette Valley and parts of southern and central Oregon this week. The trend could continue until the fires are out and weather patterns change dramatically.

 

Oregon DEQ, the Oregon Health Authority and Deschutes County are providing updates on the Pole Creek wildfire at www.Inciweb.org. More information can be found on the Pole Creek wildfire Facebook page and via the Deschutes National Forest Twitter feed.

 

Update:  A fire smoke monitor has been placed in Redmond, Ore. A website hosted by the Western Regional Climate Center will allow you to obtain hourly readings. (Tip: Click on "Time Series Graph" then choose "Concentration" and create a graph. This will provide a different x-axis scale so you can better view the change in smoke concentrations.)

 

DEQ is urging Oregonians to take precautions during smoke events until the threat of wildfire smoke has subsided. People with respiratory or heart disease, the elderly and children should remain indoors and consult their healthcare providers if they have concerns.

 

Keep an eye on the AQI!

 

DEQ’s online air quality index can provide real-time information about smoke levels and other pollutants. DEQ’s website also features a special wildfire air quality index that provides real-time air quality ratings for smoke events.

 

Smoke concentration levels can rise and fall rapidly, depending on weather factors including wind direction. DEQ’s monitors are in fixed, albeit strategic locations, and are capturing a sample of the air. People should conduct a visual assessment of smoke levels to quickly get a sense of air quality levels and take precautions. If people have additional concerns, they should contact the nearest regional or local public health agency for the latest in health conditions from smoke.

 

Health Information

 

Should smoky conditions persist, state and county health officials urge local residents to take the following precautions:

 

  • Be aware of smoke concentrations in your area.
  • Avoid strenuous outdoor activity including sports practice, work and recreation.
  • Avoid smoke by staying indoors, closing all windows and doors and using a filter in a heating/cooling system that removes very fine particulate matter. If possible, avoid smoky areas. If you do need to drive through smoke, keep your windows rolled up and vents closed. If you need air conditioning, make sure you set your system to re-circulate to avoid bringing smoke into the vehicle.
  • Drink plenty of water. Staying hydrated can keep your airways moist which will help reduce the amount of smoke particles that can travel deep into your lungs. Hydration may also reduce symptoms of scratchy throat and coughing.
  • Ask questions. People with concerns about health issues, including those suffering from asthma or other respiratory problems should contact their healthcare providers.

 

For more information about the health effects of smoke:

  • See the federal Centers for Disease Control fact sheet about the health threats from smoke.
  • See the Oregon Health Authority fact sheets regarding asthma and wildfire smoke and how to reduce exposure to wildfire smoke.
  • People in Deschutes County can contact the Deschutes County Health Department at 541-322-7418 or 541-322-7400 for more information.

 

For more information about local conditions:

  • Visit DEQ’s wildfire information page for more information regarding active fires and air quality, along with tools to help people assess smoke levels in their area.
  • Tune to local radio and TV stations and the Weather Channel in affected areas that may include the very latest fire information in news programming and weather reports.
  • Obtain a dedicated NOAA Weather Radio receiver, which will alert you 24 hours a day to hazards in your area.

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