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With so many fires blazing, DEQ issues statewide air quality alert until Monday

Oregon wildfires state map 910
wildfires.oregon.gov
So many wildfires over such a wide area have brought a rare statewide air quality alert from DEQ

Other govt wildfire-related notices; Governor, FEMA, Crater Lake, SAIF

PORTLAND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, Lane Regional Air Protection Agency and the Southwest Washington Clean Air Agency extended an air quality advisory Thursday for all regions of Oregon and Southwest Washington due to fires in Oregon, Washington and California.

DEQ said it expects the air quality advisory to last until at least Monday afternoon. DEQ and partner agencies will continue to monitor smoke in the state and Southwest Washington.

Smoke levels are fluctuating between unhealthy for sensitive groups (orange) and hazardous (maroon) in these areas. When smoke levels are hazardous everyone needs to take steps to protect themselves. Areas closest to fires – such as Salem, Eugene, the Rogue Valley and Roseburg in Oregon, and Woodland in Washington – are having the worst smoke impacts.

The Portland-Vancouver area will likely have air quality worsen beginning Thursday evening or Friday. Air quality will also likely worsen in Central and Eastern Oregon starting Thursday. The Oregon Coast may see a little air quality improvement starting on Sunday.

Several highways and roads are closed around Oregon. Check TripCheck for the latest information.

Oregon Emergency Management officials are asking the public to only call 911 to request emergency services and not to call 911 to report smoke. The Oregon Health Authority asks the public to refill prescriptions at pharmacies and not to go to emergency rooms to refill them. They also advise that you refill them as early as you can and, when possible, keep extra on hand.

Smoke levels can change rapidly depending on weather. Check current conditions by visiting the DEQ’s Air Quality Index or the Oregon Smoke Information Blog , downloading the free OregonAIR app on your smartphone, or going to on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Air Now .

Smoke can irritate the eyes and lungs and worsen some medical conditions. Young children, adults over 65, pregnant women and people with heart disease, asthma or other respiratory conditions are most at risk.

Protect your health when smoke levels are high:
• Avoid outdoor activities and stay inside if possible. Keep windows and doors closed.
• Be aware of smoke in your area and avoid places with the highest levels.
• Use high efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters. These can be portable filters or can be installed in indoor heating, ventilation, cooling and air purification systems. You can also create your own air purifying filter by following these easy to follow instructions: DIY air filter factsheet .
• If you have heart or lung disease or asthma, follow your healthcare provider’s advice.
• Consider leaving the area if smoke levels are hazardous and you have heart disease, asthma or other respiratory conditions. Otherwise, please wait to be directed to evacuate. Pay attention to evacuation notices. If you choose to leave the area, remember to take face coverings and hand sanitizer with you to help protect yourself and others from COVID-19.

Cloth, dust and surgical masks don’t protect from the harmful particles in smoke. N95 respirators that are tested to ensure proper fit and that are worn correctly may provide protection. Otherwise, they might just provide a false sense of security. They are not available in children’s sizes and are not recommended for strenuous activities. N95 respirators are in limited supply due to COVID-19. Additional information on wildfire smoke and COVID-19 can be found on the Centers for Disease Control webpage .

DEQ’s color-coded Air Quality Index provides current air quality conditions and ranks air quality as follows: Green is good. Yellow is moderate. Orange is unhealthy for sensitive groups such as children, seniors, pregnant women and those with respiratory conditions. Red is unhealthy for everyone. Purple is very unhealthy for everyone. Maroon is hazardous.

Find more information: Oregon Smoke Blog


FEMA news release:

FEMA Authorizes Federal Funds to Help Fight Three Additional Fires in Oregon 

BOTHELL, Wash. – The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has authorized the use of federal funds to help with firefighting costs for the Riverside Fire in Clackamas County, the South Obenchain Fire in Jackson County, and the Archie Creek Fire in Douglas County, Oregon. 

FEMA Region 10 Administrator Mike O'Hare determined that the fires threatened to cause such destruction as would constitute a major disaster, and on Wednesday he approved the state of Oregon's requests for Fire Management Assistance Grants (FMAG).

The Riverside Fire started on Tuesday, burning over 100,000 acres of federal and private land. At the time of the request, the fire threatened an unknown number of homes in and around the communities of Colton, Elwood, Dodge, Faraday, Damascus, Beavercreek and Escatada. The fire also threatened transmission lines, private forest lands, industrial areas, fish bearing streams, along with unknown number of residences and business in the area. Almost all of Clackamas County is under Level Three evacuation notices. 

The South Obenchain Fire started on Tuesday, burning over 8,000 acres of private land. At the time of the request, the fire threatened 1,291 households in and around the communities of Eagle Point, White City, Butte Falls, Shady Cove, and the surrounding Rouge Valley. A reported nine structures had been destroyed. The fire also threatened Interstate 5 and Highway 140 and local watersheds in the area. 

The Archie Creek Fire started on Tuesday, burning in excess of 5,700 acres of federal and private land. At the time of the request, the fire threatened up to 300 homes in and around the communities of Gide, Idleyld Park, and Steamboat. The fire also threatened transmission lines in the area. More than 2,500 people are under Level Two and Three evacuation notices, and up to 300 homes are under Level Three evacuation notices with another over 500 homes under a Level Two notice.  

The total number of FMAGs approved for Oregon during this fire season is 11.  

FMAGs are provided through the President's Disaster Relief Fund and are made available by FEMA to assist in fighting fires that threaten to cause a major disaster. Eligible items can include expenses for field camps; equipment use, repair and replacement; mobilization and demobilization activities; and tools, materials and supplies. 

In addition to reimbursement funding for fighting the fire, $1,889,043 in mitigation assistance will be available to Oregon. The Disaster Recovery Reform Act of 2018 authorizes FEMA to provide Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP) Post-Fire funds to eligible states and territories that receive Fire Management Assistance declarations and federally recognized tribes that have land burned within a designated area. 

FEMA encourages HMGP Post-Fire funds be used for the mitigation of wildfire and related hazards, such as flood or erosion. However, HMGP is available for risk reduction of any hazard. 


Crater Lake National Park Notifies Visitors and Residents to “Be Ready”  for Potential Evacuation 

CRATER LAKE, OREGON – Crater Lake National Park has issued a Level 1 Evacuation Notice for the entire park effective at 12:00 Noon, September 10, 2020.  The Level 1 notice informs residents and visitors to “be ready” for a potential evacuation, including employee dormitories and trailer sites, in the event that a fire approaches these areas.  Current or projected threats from nearby fires indicate that there may be a need to evacuate in the future, however, there are no mandatory evacuations at this time.    

There are three evacuation notice levels: Level 1 “BE READY” for potential evacuation; Level 2 “BE SET” to evacuate; and Level 3 “GO” evacuate now.  This is the time for preparation and precautionary movement of persons with special needs, mobile property, and pets.  If conditions worsen, emergency services personnel may contact you via an emergency notification system.  In the event that this occurs, the park will make every attempt to contact visitors and residents personally.  If you are absent from your residence, lodging room, campsite, or vehicle for more than a short time, please leave a note with your name and a contact telephone number in a door or window where it can be easily seen. 

Residents and park visitors will be advised as conditions change and are encouraged to check the park website (www.nps.gov/crla), Facebook, or Twitter for current status and updates.  Fire information is also available at the two entrance stations and on information boards located around the park.   

While there is not currently a fire in the park, there are several reasons for the implementation of this notice.   

  • Fire danger is extremely high, with very low humidity and exceptionally dry conditions after long periods of high temperatures with no precipitation.  
  • There is an extreme shortage of fire fighting resources because of numerous fires throughout the West and Northwest.  Should a fire start in the park, outside resources may be difficult to obtain. 
  • The egress in and out of the park is impacted by nearby fires and road closures and could be further reduced as conditions change. 

Park visitors and residents are not at risk at this time. While the fires have resulted in road closures outside of the park, roads within the park remain open with the exception of the Pinnacles Road which has been closed due to the threat of falling trees.  

Please be aware that effective September 8, 2020 the park implemented a complete ban on all wood and charcoal fires.  They are not permitted in any location throughout the park.  This regulation is being strictly enforced.  For more information, please go to 2020 fire ban


Governor Kate Brown Declares Abnormal Market Disruption Due to Wildfire State of Emergency

 (Portland, OR) — Governor Kate Brown today issued Executive Order 20-42, declaring an abnormal market disruption as a result of the statewide wildfire emergency. This order is in response to reports of unusual increases in lodging rates for Oregonians who have evacuated fire areas and concern that the wildfire emergency may prevent ready availability of other essential consumer goods and services.

“During a statewide emergency, it is absolutely unacceptable to price gouge Oregonians who have already been hard hit and are facing devastating loss,” said Governor Brown. “This order empowers the Attorney General and the Oregon Department of Justice to investigate these instances and take appropriate action if businesses are found to be in violation.”

"As wildfires force thousands of Oregonians to abandon their homes, local businesses have stepped up to ensure that families can find essential goods and services at fair prices," said Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum. "To any who would take advantage of neighbors in need, the Governor's order on price gouging is a reminder that the Oregon Department of Justice will stop them in their tracks."

Oregonians who believe they have been subjected to excessive prices for essential consumer goods and services due to this disruption can report these instances to the Oregon Department of Justice through their Consumer Protection hotline at 877-877-9392. Oregonians can also visit www.OregonConsumer.gov for more information. The Oregon Department of Justice has the authority to investigate unlawful trade practices.

This Executive Order is in addition to, and does not replace, Executive Order 20-06, which the Governor issued in March. EO 20-06 declared an abnormal market disruption due to the COVID-19 pandemic regarding essential consumer goods and services like hand sanitizer and toilet paper; it remains in effect.


How to reduce impact of hazardous wildfire smoke at work
SAIF - 09/10/20 12:11 PM

SAIF offers ten considerations for reducing smoke exposure in the workplace.

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With several days of hazardous smoke conditions in the forecast, SAIF wants to make sure workplaces are as safe as possible. 

“This was already a difficult time for Oregon businesses, and we know wildfire smoke is now another significant concern,” said David Johnson, industrial hygiene supervisor at SAIF. “There are simple things any business can do to reduce the impact the poor air quality has on employees.”

In addition to a brief video on quick tips, here are ten things to consider during a wildfire smoke event—and balancing it with a pandemic:

  1. Reduce outdoor air flow: Shut down outside air intakes and adjust your air conditioning to use recirculated air. While the precaution for COVID-19 is to increase outdoor air flow, that should not be the case when the outdoor air quality is considered hazardous.
  2. Change your HVAC filters: Consider also using a HEPA-rated room air filtration unit.
  3. Keep windows and doors closed: Reduce entering and exiting the building.
  4. Re-assign work: If possible, relocate or re-assign outdoor activities out of the smoke zone.
  5. Cease work: If the air quality and/or visibility presents health and safety hazards, consider closing or stopping specific job functions.
  6. Communicate frequently with employees and customers: Let them know about any changes to your schedule, operations, or availability.
  7. Monitor communication channels: This includes the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality and Oregon Health Authority.
  8. Consider providing masks: While N-95 masks are in short supply, other face masks will provide some protection, including N-99, N-100, or an elastomeric respirator with cartridges that offer the same level of filtration.
  9. Reduce other pollutants: Cut down on other sources of air pollutants, like vacuuming and cooking indoors, or smoking and burning fuel outdoors.
  10. Update your plan: Once the smoke has cleared, consider adding wildfire smoke events to your emergency response and business continuity plans.

Find more information at saif.com/prepare, and download this handout on preparing for wildfire season

About SAIF

SAIF is Oregon's not-for-profit workers' compensation insurance company. Since 1914, we've been taking care of injured workers, helping people get back to work, and striving to make Oregon the safest and healthiest place to work. For more information, visit the About SAIF page on saif.com.

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Comments

3 Comments

  1. Finally FEMA gets off its a** and starts doing what its supposed to be doing. Thanks Gov Brown (and probably our senators) for doing what you could to push them into it.

    1. “Feds bad. Stay out”. But now “feds good.” Next you’ll be complaining that Trump isn’t out with a shovel and a shake-n-bake personally putting out the fires. And at least someone has faith in Oregon’s two senators. I doubt either of them could find Oregon on a map.

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