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8/24/15: DEQ Statewide Wildfire Smoke News Release

Release date:  Aug. 24, 2015 
Ken Armstrong, Public Affairs Specialist, Eugene, 541-686-7997
Treena Jensen, NOAA Senior Meteorologist, Portland, 503-261-9248 

SW, central and NE Oregon continue to experience poor air quality as a result of ongoing wildfires 

Willamette Valley, Coast and Portland-metro area experience AQ improvement. Statewide improvement expected later in week.
The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, along with state and local health officials, encourages residents of southwest, central and northeast Oregon to take health precautions from smoke caused by dozens of wildfires burning throughout Oregon and southeast Washington.
 Air quality is unhealthy for sensitive populations in southwest Oregon, including Medford, Grants Pass, Cave Junction, and Shady Cove; in central Oregon, including Bend, Redmond and Sisters; and in Eastern Oregon, including Pendleton, La Grande and Enterprise.
Smoke continues to clear out of the Willamette Valley. For southwest and northeast Oregon, this will be a much slower process. There is a combination of little air movement and continued smoke from either northern California/southern Oregon fires affecting southern Oregon, and smoke from wildfires in Washington and Idaho affecting northeast Oregon. Those areas may not see significant improvement until the end of the week.
While DEQ’s Air Quality Index is a good resource, it’s important to remember that statewide 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 located in close proximity to a monitor. It’s important for residents to gauge air quality conditions where they live and take appropriate actions to protect themselves.
Should smoke occur, residents can take the following precautions to avoid breathing problems or other symptoms from smoke:
·         If smoke levels are Very Unhealthy or Hazardous, the best recommendation is to get out of the smoky area. If you have the means and ability to leave, getting out of the smoky area is the best thing you can do for your health. 
·         If you are not able to leave the area, reduce the amount of time outdoors.  People with heart or lung disease, infants and children are more sensitive to health effects from wildfire smoke, so leaving the area until the smoke clears is the best thing you can do for your health.  
·         If you have asthma, other lung disease, or heart disease, you may be more sensitive to health effects from wildfire smoke, follow your doctor’s advice about medicines and about your disease management plan.  Call your doctor if symptoms worsen.  
·         If you are told to stay indoors, stay indoors and keep your indoor air as clean as possible. Keep windows and doors closed, if possible.  
·         Have enough food and medications on hand to last several days. Minimize the amount of food that requires frying or broiling.  This can add particles to indoor air.
·         Avoid strenuous work or exercise outdoors. With the exception of firefighters and emergency personnel who are trained to work in hazardous environments, people should avoid physical exertion during smoke exposure.
·         Avoid driving whenever possible. If driving is necessary, run the air conditioner on the “recycle” or “re-circulate” mode to avoid drawing smoky air into the car.
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.
Visit the Oregon Smoke Blog 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.