C.O. wildfire smoke prompts DEQ air quality alert

Also issued for much of state; limit time outdoors

PORTLAND, Ore. - The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality issued an air quality advisory Thursday for Central and Eastern Oregon due to wildfire smoke, as state and local health officials urge residents throughout much of Oregon to take health precautions.

Air quality is unhealthy for sensitive populations throughout Central and Eastern Oregon, including the communities of Sisters, The Dalles, Baker City, Pendleton and La Grande. DEQ along with the Southwest Clean Air Agency in Washington and the Lane Regional Air Protection issued an air pollution advisory for Portland, Vancouver, Salem, Eugene and Medford on Wednesday. That advisory is expected to last through Tuesday.

While residents can view current air quality conditions at, it's important to remember that Oregon's monitoring network does not capture air quality conditions in all communities. Many smaller communities are currently experiencing unhealthy air quality, though they may not be close to a monitor. It's important for residents to gauge air quality conditions where they live and take appropriate actions to protect themselves.

People can take the following precautions:

-Be aware of smoke concentrations in your area and avoid the places with highest concentrations.
-Avoid strenuous outdoor activity in smoky conditions.
-If you have heart disease, asthma or other respiratory ailments, or are over 65, you have a higher risk of illness from wildfire smoke. Small children and pregnant women are also at increased risk. People in any of these groups might consider leaving the area until air quality improves.
-People suffering from asthma or other respiratory problems should follow their breathing management plans or contact their healthcare providers.

Remember, local smoke levels can rise and fall rapidly, depending on weather factors including wind direction.

Visit the Oregon Smoke Blog for more information:

The National Weather Service said the air quality alert for Central Oregon lasts through noon Saturday, due to smoke not only from Oregon wildfires but also ones in eastern Washington. British Columbia and Montana, as north to northeast winds push smoke around the area.

Air quality will vary between good and unhealthy, depending on wind direction and time of day.

Pollutants in smoke can cause burning eyes, runny nose and aggravate heart and lung diseases and other serious health problems.

Children, the elderly and individuals with respiratory illnesses are most at risk of serious health effects. If you experience respiratory distress, you should speak with your physician and follow their advice.

Limit outdoor activities and keep children indoors if it is smoky, forecasters said.

Also, Crook County health officials issued the following Thursday:

County public health officials want to remind people across the state to take precautions as smoke from multiple wildfires around Oregon and Washington affects the air quality.  The combination of high temperatures and wildfire smoke around the area may increase the risk of illness especially for older adults, young children, and people with asthma, respiratory, or heart conditions. 

Public health officials urge all residents to take the following precautions to avoid health problems during hot, smoky conditions.

o   Reduce the amount of time spent outdoors. This can usually provide some protection, especially in a tightly closed, air-conditioned house in which the air conditioner can be set to re-circulate air instead of bringing in outdoor air.

o   Reduce the amount of time engaged in vigorous outdoor physical activity. This can be an important and effective strategy to decrease exposure to inhaled air pollutants and minimize health risks during a smoke event.

o   Reduce other sources of indoor air pollution such as burning cigarettes and candles; using gas, propane, and wood burning stoves and furnaces; cooking; and vacuuming.

o   Individuals with heart disease or lung diseases such as asthma should follow their health care providers’ advice about prevention and treatment of symptoms.

Also things to consider:

·         Remember to stay hydrated.  Drink between 2-4 cups of water per hour if working outdoors. 

·         Apply sunscreen with SPF 15 or more 10 minutes before going out; re-apply every two hours.

·         Wear loose, lightweight, light-colored clothing.

·         Take cool showers to lower your body temperature.

·         Never leave infants, children, or pets in a parked car.

·         Always wear a life jacket if you are on the water. Remember to be safe around water.

·         Check on at-risk friends, family, and neighbors.

·         Know symptoms of Heat Exhaustion (heavy sweating, weakness, pale and clammy, fainting and vomiting).

·         Know symptoms of Heat Stroke (high body temperature, hot and dry skin, rapid pulse) and call for help.

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