ashland.news
July 14, 2024

Air quality alert issued due to smoke from Salt Creek and Shelly fires

Ashland sits in the middle of a red area designated "Unhealthy" on the U.S. Air Quality Index (151-200) on Monday afternoon. Yellow is moderate (51-100) and orange is "unhealthy for sensitive grouips" (101-150). Graphic from airnow.gov
July 8, 2024

Smoke level passes into ‘unhealthy’ readings in Ashland on Monday afternoon

Rogue Valley Times staff report

Jackson County officials issued an air quality alert Monday due to a worsening layer of smoke descending on the Rogue Valley as two wildfires continue to burn in the region.

The Salt Creek Fire in Jackson County was reportedly burning some 1,500 acres toward the Lake Creek area outside Eagle Point and Highway 140 as of Monday morning. Meanwhile, in Siskiyou County, the Shelly Fire, which began July 3, had grown to more than 3,300 acres with 0% containment.

The layer of smoke, coupled with record-breaking temperatures, had already prompted public officials to open cooling shelters in Medford and Ashland.

Residents are urged to avoid areas with high concentrations of smoke, stay indoors when possible — with doors and windows closed — and maintain good indoor quality.

The wading pool on Ashland Creek in Lithia Park proved to be a good place to cool off from Monday afternoon’s temperatures in the low 100’s, before air quality deteriorated significantly at about 3 p.m. Ashland.news photo by Bob Palermini

An excessive heat warning has been in effect since the Fourth of July and will continue through 9 p.m. Tuesday. After that, cooler nighttime temperatures and slightly lower daytime temperatures are expected to arrive. At a minimum, Jackson County officials said residents and visitors can expect to see poor air quality for the next couple of days, though the impacts could last longer, depending on weather patterns and wildfire activity.

County officials urge community members to take precautions to protect themselves from air pollutants that can cause a range of health issues, from lung irritation, inflammation, altered immune function and increased susceptibility to respiratory infections.

The particulate matter (aka “PM”) in wildfire smoke poses the biggest risk to the public’s health. Particles larger than 10 micrometers usually irritate only the eyes, nose and throat. Fine particles 2.5 micrometers or smaller (PM2.5) can be inhaled into the deepest part of the lungs and even enter the bloodstream.

Ashland had the highest reading in the region with a 153 (unhealthy) on the Air Quality Index on Monday afternoon. Airnow.gov graphic

Breathing in wildfire smoke can immediately affect a person’s health, causing coughing, trouble breathing, wheezing, asthma attacks, stinging eyes, scratchy throat, runny nose, irritated sinuses, headaches, tiredness, chest pain and fast heartbeat. Populations especially vulnerable to wildfire smoke exposure include children, adults 65 years or older, pregnant women, people with chronic health conditions such as heart or lung disease, asthma and diabetes, and outdoor workers.

Residents unable to escape the smoke and heat can utilize either of two cooling shelters available in Ashland and Medford.

The Ashland cooling center will be open daily from noon to 8 p.m. through Wednesday, July 10, Rogue Valley Emergency Management announced Monday.

For updates to a cooling center in Ashland, located at 2200 Ashland St., visit ashlandoregon.gov or text 97520SHELTER to 888777 to be notified about upcoming shelter activations.

The Ashland Public Library at 410 Siskiyou Blvd., is open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Fridays, and noon to 5 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays.

Medford’s cooling shelter, operated by ACCESS volunteers, is set to stay open through 8 p.m. Monday, then will open up again from noon to 8 p.m, Tuesday, city officials announced. The Medford shelter is at 324 W. 6th St. The shelter will provide water, restrooms, snacks and a cooling area and water for pets. Text MED4SHELTERS to 888777 to receive the latest information on shelter activations in Medford, or check ACCESS Facebook page, facebook.com/ACCESSHELPS.

The Salvation Army in Medford also is providing temporary drop-in cooling shelters at 304 Beatty St. and 922 N. Central Ave. Water and snacks will be available.

For tips on coping with wildfire smoke, visit online, airnow.gov/wildfires/when-smoke-is-in-the-air/#map.

The current air quality reading is available in the right hand column of the Ashland.news homepage.

This story first appeared in the Rogue Valley Times.

Picture of Bert Etling

Bert Etling

Bert Etling is the executive editor of Ashland.news. Email him at betling@ashland.news.

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