News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

Unhealthy to hazardous air quality expected through weekend

The Central Oregon Emergency Information Network reports that unhealthy and hazardous air is expected statewide through the weekend. The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality issued an air quality advisory Thursday for all regions of Oregon due to smoke from fires in Oregon, Washington and California.

Air quality will likely worsen in Central Oregon starting Thursday and continue degrading through the weekend. Smoke levels may be unhealthy or hazardous. When smoke levels are hazardous, everyone needs to take steps to protect themselves.

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 instructions for a DIY air filter.

• 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, 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.

Smoke levels can change rapidly depending on weather. Check current conditions by visiting 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.

Do not rely on masks for protection. Paper “comfort” or “dust” masks commonly found at hardware stores are designed to trap large particles, such as sawdust. These masks will not protect your lungs from smoke. There are also specially designed air filters worn on the face called respirators. These must be fitted, tested and properly worn to protect against wildfire smoke. People who do not properly wear their respirator may gain a false sense of security.

If you choose to wear a respirator, select an “N95” respirator, and make sure you find someone who has been trained to help you select the right size, test the seal and teach you how to use it. It may offer some protection if used correctly.


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