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‘Hazardous’ smoke moves into Central Oregon from wildfires; DEQ issues air quality advisory; BPRD cancels camps

(Update: Adding video, comments from BPRD, parkgoers; pools reopen)

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality issued an air quality advisory Monday for parts of Central and Southern Oregon due to smoke from wildfires burning around the region and state that sent air quality plunging to "hazardous" levels.

DEQ and Lane Regional Air Protection Agency said they expect intermittent smoke in the following areas through at least Wednesday night:

•                    Deschutes County (worst overnight and early morning hours) due to the Bedrock Fire.

•                    Jackson County due to the Flat Fire.

•                    Josephine County (localized near the Cave Junction area by the Flat Fire).

•                    Klamath County due to the Bedrock Fire.

•                    Lake County due to the Bedrock Fire.

•                    Lane County (localized near the Oakridge area by the Bedrock Fire).

The Bend Park and Recreation District said Monday morning it was closing the pools at Juniper Swim and Fitness Center and Larkspur Community Center, but they were reopened by early Monday afternoon. Check here for the latest information.

Bend Park & Recreation District Communications Manager Julie Brown explained Monday, "Today just happened to be the first time that we've had to put those plans into place this particular season."

At Riverbend Park, parkgoer Garret Jacobs told NewsChannel 21, "Growing up in Northern California, you're kind of used to the smoke, so you just roll with the punches."

The smoke is mainly coming from the Bedrock Fire on the Willamette National Forestm as winds pushed from west to east.

The E::Space Air Quality Index map on the KTVZ.COM Weather page showed many Bend-area readings at "hazardous" AQI, in the 400s Monday morning (over 300 is deemed hazardous), though they improved to "Very Unhealthy," "Unhealthy" and "Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups" later in the day.

Brown explained what prompts BPRD to suspend certain activities.

"Typically our policy is, if our Air Quality Index is going to under 200, we're going to make modifications either to duration or activity levels to continue. But when we get to 200 and above, that's when we need to make the decision to close and make some cancellations of programs."

Concertgoers at the inaugural FairWell Festival in Redmond noticed the haze moving in Sunday.

"Well, it all started with the Willie Nelson concert last night, so I don't know, is there a fire?" Dan Nahmens asked rhetorically. "I'm now living in Los Angeles, so this is pretty clean air, compared to whatever they've got going on down there."

Bend Park & Rec said it will continue to monitor air quality and make adjustments to schedules for outdoor facilities and summer camps.

"For our parks and our trails, we really encourage people to be attentive to those readers and make the decision that's best for their personal health condition," Brown said.

Jacobs added, "The smoke is unfortunate, but going to make the most of our time here in Bend so, smoke isn't going to damper our parade."

Bend Park & Rec also had to cancel multiple sports camps because of the poor air quality conditions. The activities are expected to resume by mid-week.

More info from DEQ:

Smoke levels can change rapidly depending on weather. Check current conditions on the Oregon Smoke Information BlogDEQ’s Air Quality Index , or by downloading the free OregonAIR app on your smartphone.

Smoke can irritate the eyes and lungs and worsen some medical conditions. People most at risk include infants and young children, people with heart or lung disease, older adults and pregnant people.

Protect yourself and your family when smoke levels are high:

- Stay inside if possible. Keep windows and doors closed. If it’s too hot, run air conditioning on recirculate or consider moving to a cooler location.

- Avoid strenuous outdoor activity.

- Use high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters in indoor ventilation systems or portable air purifiers. Or create your own air purifying filter by following … .

- Be aware of smoke in your area and avoid places with the highest levels.

- When air quality improves to moderate or healthy (yellow or green on the Air Quality Index), open windows and doors to air out homes and businesses.

- If you have a breathing plan for a medical condition, be sure to follow it and keep any needed medications refilled.

Cloth, dust and surgical masks don’t protect from the harmful particles in smoke. N95 or P100 respirators approved by NIOSH may offer protection, but they must be properly selected and worn. Select a NIOSH-approved respirator with a N, R or P alongside the number 95, 99 or 100. Learn how to put on and use a respirator . Respirators won’t work for children as they don’t come in children’s sizes. People with heart or lung conditions should consult their health care provider before wearing a respirator.

N95 and P100 respirators and HEPA filters are made to protect from harmful particles in smoke. They will not protect against gasses like ozone.

Additional resources:

Article Topic Follows: Environment

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Blake Mayfield

Blake Mayfield is a multimedia journalist for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Blake here.

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Barney Lerten

Barney is the digital content director for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Barney here.


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