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Aug-30-2006 02:42printcomments

Smoke From Fires in Cascades May Cause Potential Health Impacts in Northeastern Oregon

“When wildfire smoke gets to unhealthy for sensitive group levels, children, the elderly and those with respiratory conditions should take measures to limit their outdoor activities,” - DEQ Air Quality Manager, Linda Hayes-Gorman.

Photo by: Don Thrall

(PENDLETON) - Wildfire smoke concentrations in Enterprise, La Grande, Baker City, Pendleton and adjacent areas of Northeastern Oregon from fires in the Cascades eastward reached the moderate level today, just outside the “good” category, on the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality’s Wildfire Air Quality Rating Scale (WAQR).

DEQ reminds area residents – especially those individuals who may be sensitive to smoke – that there are precautions they can take to mitigate breathing problems or other symptoms from smoke.

Additionally, there are helpful Web-related tools available that may help individuals determine when to take protective measures.

Wildfire smoke plumes are unpredictable, and conditions can improve or worsen rapidly depending on the location.

Widespread smoke dispersion is especially influenced by variable weather patterns that can create dramatic short-term changes in air quality.

Periods of smoke dispersal aided by surface winds can frequently be followed by stable conditions that trap smoke in low lying areas.

The smoke is made up of tiny particles (particulate matter) that can be harmful to breathe, especially for children, older adults and those with asthma and other lung or heart conditions.

This particulate matter also reduces visibility, causing the haze that has been noticeable in the area.

Symptoms that people may experience from smoke include varying degrees of repeated coughing, shortness of breath, scratchy throat, wheezing, irritated eyes, sinus complications, chest tightness, heart palpitations, nausea, unusual fatigue or lightheadedness.

According to the WAQR, designed to measure real-time impacts from forest fire smoke plumes, particulate levels in Enterprise, La Grande, Baker City, Pendleton reached the moderate category for a 8 hour average early this morning. Particle pollution is often highest during the coldest times of the day, typically in the evening and early morning. Updated health category information is available at:

Area residents can take the following precautions to improve breathing conditions or other symptoms when problematic smoke conditions are likely:

Stay indoors if possible; keep doors and windows closed if practicable

· Avoid strenuous outdoor activity

· Asthma sufferers or those who suffer from other respiratory problems should follow their asthma or breathing management plan or contact your health provider

· Be aware of smoke concentrations in your area and avoid those areas with highest concentrations

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Sean Flynn was a photojournalist in Vietnam, taken captive in 1970 in Cambodia and never seen again.

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