COOS COUNTY — The National Weather Service released an update predicting wide-spread haze and increasing winds for much of the areas affected by wildfires in southern Oregon. Recent hazy weather conditions in Coos County have sent some residents on alert for potential impacts of air quality in the area.
According to Oregon Department of Environmental Quality Spokeswoman Katherine Benenati, no reports of smoke or air quality issues have been reported for Coos County. The department has placed two temporary monitoring sites in Gold Beach and Agness to keep a watch out for potential impacts from the dozens of fires currently burning.
“Conditions can change pretty rapidly, but we didn’t hear of any impacts to Coos County,” said Benenati. “We are expecting some release in the Rogue Valley this weekend but then expecting conditions to change again and come back probably early next week.”
Brad Schaaf, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, said an increase in westerly winds will be approaching the coast Friday night and will help blow any remaining haze from the area. The haze is likely coming from the wildfires burning in southern Oregon, but could also be coming in from as far as Asia, said Schaaf.
Currently the largest wildfire in Oregon is the Taylor Creek Fire, which has spread over 43,000 acres and is only 45 percent contained. The fire is burning about 10 miles west of Grants Pass and was originally ignited by a lighting storm in early July. About 1,000 firefighters and safety personnel have been assigned to combat the fire and various portions of the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest have been closed in response.
Air quality in some southern Oregon cities such as Medford, Klamath Falls and Ashland have all been updated to unhealthy levels. According to the Oregon Health Advisory (OHA), wildfire smoke exposure can cause shortness of breath, asthma attacks, irregular heartbeats and chest pain to name a few.
Infants, pregnant women and people with asthma or other chronic respiratory diseases as well as those over 65 years of age are considered particularly sensitive to air pollution and smoke and are encouraged to be on high alert if air quality conditions worsen.
According to OHA, smoke exposure should be limited and residents in unhealthy and hazardous air quality conditions are encouraged to stay indoors. Wildfire smoke contains a mixture of fine particles and gases which can be dangerous if inhaled.
As a generally rule of thumb, the DEQ advises residents to use the 5-3-1 index to determine air quality based of basic visibility. If visibility is well over five miles then the air quality is considered good. However, if visibility is less than five miles then the chances of it being unhealthy increases and those sensitive groups are asked to take precautions. If visibility decreases to less than three or one mile ahead, then everyone is advised to avoid outdoor exposure indicating levels has reached unhealthy or hazardous conditions.
According to Benenati, residents can check out daily updates on air quality levels at https://oregonsmoke.blogspot.com/.