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DEQ issues Air Quality Alert for High Desert

By KTVZ.COM news sources
Published On: Sep 20 2012 09:03:30 PM CDT
Updated On: Sep 22 2012 07:31:11 PM CDT
Pole Creek Rene Schwab

Rene' Schwab

Smoky sunset from Horse Butte Estates, southeast of Bend

The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality issued an Air Quality Alert for the High Desert on Friday, extending it until 5 p.m. Monday due to high concentrations of smoke from the Pole Creek Fire.

"Despite a disturbance that is expected to track across the region this weekend, the layer of smoke is expected to remain entrenched over the area through the weekend and into the beginning of next week.

Residents were urged to use caution, and sensitive groups such as children, the elderly and heart patients are particularly vulnerable and should remain indoors and consult their health care providers if they have concerns, the warning said.

Due to the Pole Creek wildfire, smoky conditions are expected to persist throughout Central Oregon for another two weeks or more, health officials said Thursday.

Deschutes County Health, the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, Oregon Health Authority, and the Sisters School District are communicating on a daily basis to work on short- and long-term options to reduce the health impact of wildfire smoke inhalation for the public.

The U.S. Forest Service has set up a temporary air monitor in Redmond to measure the danger of smoke from nearby wildfires.

The Bend Bulletin reports (http://bit.ly/R7YMhZ ) that air-quality measurements have been at very unhealthy levels since the device was installed on Tuesday. Officials say the smoke is likely from the Pole Creek Fire burning southwest of Sisters and two lightning-caused fires on the Warm Springs Indian Reservation.

Health officials consider air-quality to be very unhealthy when measurements of fine particles reach 120 micrograms per cubic meter, and hazardous at 250 micrograms.

The air in Redmond was at 127 micrograms on Friday. In Sisters, it's been above 1,000 for four days — a level that astounds air-quality experts.

Experts say fine particles can penetrate deep into the lungs and cause damage.

Updates and health recommendations for SISTERS:

1. The “shelter in place” health advisory set by Deschutes County Health last week continues UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE for the affected area of Sisters. “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 recommend you continue to remain indoors, or to take additional steps to protect yourself and your family.

2. Deschutes County Health officials highly recommended that all public outdoor activities in Sisters be cancelled when the concentration of smoke in the area is highest. Currently, the estimated “window” of better air quality is from 2:00 to 5:00 p.m. each day in Sisters. Residents can check the current local air quality conditions on DEQ’s website (http://www.deq.state.or.us/aqi/index.aspx) or call (503) 229-6397.

3. Local medical clinics in Sisters are being monitored for an increase of patient visits due to the wildfire smoke. At this time, most who are inquiring at Sisters clinics are receiving health advice over the phone or picking up respiratory medications/inhalers. Significant increases in patient volume have not been observed at this time.

Updates and health recommendations for REDMOND & BEND:

1. As a result of the fire, smoke is likely to drift into Redmond and Bend on a daily basis. When air quality conditions reach unhealthy levels in these cities, residents are also advised to remain indoors until conditions improve.

2. Residents can check the current local air quality conditions on DEQ’s website (http://www.deq.state.or.us/aqi/index.aspx) or call (503) 229-6397.

What the public can do to protect themselves from harmful wildfire smoke:

1. People with chronic lung or heart conditions, the elderly, and children have higher risk of health problems from breathing dense wildfire smoke. They should consider relocating to a place with better air quality.

2. Avoid smoke when it appears or smells the strongest by staying indoors or when DEQ indicates “Unhealthy” air conditions, closing and sealing all windows and doors. If your air conditioner uses re-circulated air, continue running it. If possible, use a filter in your heating/cooling system that removes very fine particulate matter. If your air conditioner pulls in air from outside, turn it off. Locking windows may provide a tighter seal from the smoky air.

4. 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. Remember-the longer poor smoke conditions linger, the more likely a person’s health may be affected. Please be prepared and think ahead regarding ordering medications, leaving town, etc.

3. Avoid outdoor activities until air quality improves. Those who regularly work or exercise outside should suspend activity, or seek indoor solutions.

4. Continue to monitor local news outlets; we will continue to provide updated information as we receive it.

The updated recommendations above will continue UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE, pending weather forecasts (changing wind direction and temperatures) and progress in containing the Pole Creek fire.

Additional updates:

Central Oregon 2-1-1, the phone service that connects the community to local and basic services (housing, lodging, utilities, and more), continues to receive and share smoke inhalation information to callers.

HELPFUL WEBSITE LINKS FOR MORE INFORMATION:

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 .

Centers for Disease Control fact sheet about the health threats from wildfire smoke: http://www.bt.cdc.gov/disasters/wildfires/facts.asp

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s health effects information for particulate matter (the most harmful component of wildfire smoke for most people): http://www.epa.gov/pm/health.html

The Federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry website on the health effects of wildfire air pollution: http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/general/theair.html

Oregon Department of Environmental Quality website about wildfire smoke: http://www.deq.state.or.us/aq/burning/wildfires/index.htm .

Oregon Health Authority (OHA) fact sheet about asthma and wildfire smoke: http://public.health.oregon.gov/HealthyEnvironments/Documents/WildfiresAsthma_final.pdf .

OHA fact sheet about how to reduce exposure to wildfire smoke and high-risk populations: http://public.health.oregon.gov/HealthyEnvironments/Documents/WildfireExposure_final.pdf .

OHA wildfire preparedness web page: http://public.health.oregon.gov/Preparedness/Prepare/Pages/PrepareForWildfire.aspx

For additional information about wildfire smoke health risks, contact the Deschutes County Health Department at (541) 322-7418.

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