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The original item was published from 7/28/2020 10:21:32 AM to 7/30/2020 12:00:02 AM.

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Public Health

Posted on: July 28, 2020

[ARCHIVED] Wildfire smoke is a public health concern

Wildfire smoke is a public health concern 

KLAMATH FALLS, Ore. – Klamath County Public Health (KCPH) officials report that the air quality index was in the hazardous range at 7 p.m. last night. The infiltration of wildfire smoke from the Caldwell Complex and other fires in California is creating a health risk for the community.

At 9 a.m. this morning the index was 200, or unhealthy.

“Unfortunately, wildfire season coincides with ongoing efforts to meet the COVID-19 crisis in the region,” said KCPH Director Jennifer Little. “With the conditions last night, it was important that residents reduce exposure to the smoke while also continuing to maintain social distance and take other precautions related to the virus.”

Smoke from wildfires is a mixture of gases and fine particles from burning trees and other plant materials. Smoke can hurt your eyes, irritate your respiratory system, and worsen chronic heart and lung diseases.

Currently, masks and respirators known to protect against wildfire smoke particles, the N95, are in short supply and are being reserved as personal protective equipment for health professionals. The best way to reduce smoke exposure is to stay indoors.

Little said people should know if they are at risk for health threats from wildfire smoke. “Just like with COVID-19, people with chronic diseases have a more difficult time staying healthy during smoky conditions,” she said.

Know if you are at risk:

  • If you have heart or lung disease, such as congestive heart failure, angina, COPD, emphysema or asthma, you are at higher risk of having health problems from smoke.
  • Older adults are more likely to be affected by smoke, because they are more likely to have heart or lung diseases than younger people.
  • Children are more likely to be affected by health threats from smoke because their airways are still developing and because they breathe more air per pound of body weight than adults. Children also are more likely to be active outdoors.

Recommendations for people with chronic diseases include:

  • Have an adequate supply of medication (more than five days).
  • If you have asthma, make sure you have a written asthma management plan.
  • If you have heart disease, check with your health care providers about precautions to take during smoke events.
  • If you plan to use a portable air cleaner, select a high efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter or an electro-static precipitator (ESP). Buy one that matches the room size specified by the manufacturer.
  • Call your health care provider if your condition gets worse when you are exposed to smoke.

“Everyone should limit their exposure to smoke,” said Little. “Indoor air should be kept as clean as possible. Burning items, such as candles, and vacuuming can add more pollution into the mix.”

During periods of impact from wildfire smoke, community members will notice discussion of the air quality index number. This number is most helpful when residents know its meaning. KCPH wants to help the community “know the numbers”. High temperatures can make the smoky conditions more uncomfortable. Knowing the range of air quality numbers can help people make good choices about outdoor activities.

The six levels of the air quality index are:

During smoke events, KCPH provides a daily morning update on the air quality index at Hourly updates are available at


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