Pole Creek Fire now affecting air quality
- Holly M. Gill
- Madras Pioneer - Sports
>In Jefferson CountyThe Pole Creek Fire may not be in Jefferson County, but smoke from the fire is certainly affecting county residents.
On Monday, the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality considered the air quality in most communities in the state in the "good" range, but found that Madras and Bend were in the "moderate" range, with Sisters well into the worst category -- "hazardous" -- for particulate matter over the preceding 24 hours.
By evening, Portland had hit the moderate range of the Air Quality Index -- 51-100, with a 24-hour average rating of 60. Madras was at 58, Bend at 77, and Sisters at a dangerous 641.
Tuesday morning, Madras still had about 57 micrograms per cubic meter of particulate matter in the air, but had been surpassed by Albany, Beaverton, Corvallis, Lyons, Salem and Silverton. Bend was in the unhealthy for sensitive individuals range (101-150), with a 109, and Portland had reached 77, while Sisters dropped to a still hazardous 433.
The unhealthy range is 151-200; extremely unhealthy, 201-300; and hazardous, 301 or higher.
Weather patterns in the Northwest have pushed smoke from the Pole Creek Fire, which had burned 17,500 acres southwest of Sisters as of Tuesday, to the west and south, as well as into the Portland area. It was reported to be 15 percent contained.
Three other smaller fires, which were caused by lightning over the weekend on the Warm Springs Reservation, were also contributing to the smoky conditions.
The Bear Slide Fire, burning five miles north-northeast of Warm Springs, had burned a total of 1,680 acres on Tuesday, and was 70 percent contained, while the Kah-Nee-Ta Fire was burning two miles east of the resort in heavy sage and bitterbrush.
The Kah-Nee-Ta Fire was estimated at 150 acres, and 90 percent contained on Tuesday, according to Bob Medina, fire dispatcher for Warm Springs Fire Management.
Another incident, the Trail 2 Fire, located about two to three miles north of the Monty Campgrounds across the Metolius River on the reservation side, also started from Friday's lightning storm.
"It's growing," said Medina, who indicated that they had attacked it with fire engines and water drops from a helicopter. "It's on steep terrain and they have to walk to it."
The Waterfalls 2 Fire, which has been burning since early August, is now fully contained at 12,265 acres. The fire is located about 22 miles west of Warm Springs, and four miles north of Mount Jefferson.
Officials cautioned that cooler evening temperatures can cause the smoke to concentrate and settle closer to the ground, affecting air quality.
During wildfire events, the DEQ and Oregon Public Health Division are urging Oregonians to take precautions.
People with heart or lung disease, or respiratory problems, as well as the elderly and children are advised to remain indoors and monitor the air quality index. The index is available at www.deq.state.or.us/aqi/index.aspx.
If people in those categories, or their caregivers have concerns, they should contact their health care providers.
Should smoky conditions persist, state and county health officials urge local residents to take the following precautions:
. Be aware of smoke concentrations in the 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 recirculate 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.