A voluntary health advisory was put into effect Thursday evening by the Deschutes County Health Department until further notice for the community of Sisters due to high levels of wildfire smoke
The advisory is a result of the hazardous air pollution created by the Pole Creek Fire specifically in the evenings, through the night and into the mornings.
This health advisory directs residents of Sisters to take shelter in their homes in the evenings and overnight, and to secure buildings occupied in the mornings according to the guidelines below to protect themselves from wildfire smoke inhalation.
What is happening now:
1. DEQ air monitoring data shows hazardous air quality levels in the Sisters area due to the wildfire.
2. Deschutes County Health officials recommend all members of the community to discontinue outdoor activities in the evenings, overnight and mornings until conditions improve.
3. Being outside during these times of the day are particularly harmful to one's health due to the concentration of wildfire smoke in the air.
4. These recommendations will continue until further notice, pending weather forecasts (changing wind direction and temperatures) and the containment progress of the Pole Creek fire.
What does “Shelter in Place” mean?
“Shelter-in-place" means to take shelter where you are—at home, work, school, or in between. In this case, it also means "seal the building;" in other words, take steps to prevent outside air from coming in. It is important to continue to monitor the news to understand whether health officials wish you to merely remain indoors or to take additional steps to protect yourself and your family.
1. Avoid smoke by staying indoors, closing and sealing all windows and doors. Use a filter in your heating/cooling system that removes very fine particulate matter. Turn air conditioning off, turn fans on inside your home. Locking windows may provide a tighter seal from the smoky air.
2. People with concerns about health issues, including those suffering from asthma or other respiratory conditions, should follow their breathing management plans; keep medications on hand, and contact healthcare providers if necessary.
3. Continue to monitor local news outlets; we will continue to provide updated information as we receive it.
What about masks?
N-95 masks are the best masks to protect one's health, but require fit testing. Based on scientific data, surgical masks, bandanas and t-shirts worn as masks offer little to no protection.
For more information about preparing to shelter in place, and for mask information to prevent smoke inhalation, please visit http://public.health.oregon.gov/HealthyEnvironments/Documents/WildfireExposure_final.pdf .
The Pole Creek Fire, six miles southwest of Sisters, sent dense smoke into the town during the morning hours again Thursday for the third straight day, pushing air-quality to "hazardous" levels, state environmental officials noted.
Calm conditions and temperature inversions kept smoke at ground level between midnight and noon each of those days. Smoke concentrations at the air quality monitor in Sisters reached hazardous levels during those times.
Health officials urge everyone to avoid outdoor exertion during such conditions. People with respiratory or heart disease, the elderly and children should remain indoors and consult their healthcare providers if they have concerns.
The National Weather Service predicts that calm conditions, high pressure and nighttime temperature inversions could cause very smoky mornings through the weekend.
Conditions are expected to continue to improve daily as temperatures rise later in the day, allowing smoke to lift away from ground level.
Remember, local smoke levels can rise and fall rapidly, depending on weather factors including wind direction.
People can 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.
To check the latest conditions, visit the DEQ's Wildfire Air Quality Index (Sisters is the last in the SE Oregon list).
“During the region's annual wildfire season, people with health issues are encouraged to take special precautions and avoid excessive intake of wildfire smoke. Creating a breathing environment for yourself that decreases the amount of smoke you're breathing is the key to avoiding a trip to the doctor or emergency room,” said Deschutes County Public Health Program Manager Thomas Kuhn.
HIGH RISK POPULATIONS: People with respiratory or heart disease, the elderly and children, are advised to stay indoors. Poor air quality conditions are a health threat and should be avoided by all residents in smoky communities.
SYMPTOMS OF HIGH LEVELS OF WILDFIRE SMOKE INHALATION:
High concentrations of wildfire smoke can greatly increase the risk of chest pain, rapid heart beat, shortness of breath, fatigue or even heart attacks in people with pre-existing heart problems such as congestive heart failure or angina. People with asthma are more likely to have asthma attacks in smoky conditions. People with respiratory allergies, asthma, or other chronic obstructive pulmonary disorders are more likely to experience respiratory distress such as the inability to breathe normally, coughing, chest discomfort, shortness of breath or wheezing.
When smoke concentrations reach hazardous levels, even healthy people may experience coughing, sinus irritation, scratchy throat, stinging eyes, runny nose or headaches.