Forest fires choke air with hazardous smoke

ROSEBURG, Ore. - Smoke from dozens of lightning-caused wildfires may cause health problems for the public, especially people with breathing problems.

Smoke from the Douglas and Whiskey complex of fires poured south across Oregon on Monday, making the air in Grants Pass and Cave Junction unhealthy to breathe by early afternoon.

{>}{>}{>} Oregon DEQ Air Monitoring | LRAPA air quality for Eugene and Oakridge

Air quality was better further north, but a shift in the wind could push forest fire smoke into Roseburg or even Eugene.

Public health officials urged the public Monday to avoid the health risks of hot, smoky air.

"This is the time for people to reach out to their friends and neighbors," said Peggy Madison, Health Administrator for Douglas County. "If you know someone affected by wildfire smoke that doesn't have air conditioning, help them in any way you can, by inviting them over or helping them find a safe place."

Protect yourself

  • Reduce the amount of time spent outdoors. This can usually provide some protection, especially in a tightly closed, air-conditioned house in which the air conditioner can be set to re-circulate air instead of bringing in outdoor air.
  • Reduce the amount of time engaged in vigorous outdoor physical activity. This can be an important and effective strategy to decrease exposure to inhaled air pollutants and minimize health risks during a smoke event.
  • Drink plenty of water or other non-alcohol or decaffeinated fluids to keep cool.
  • Reduce other sources of indoor air pollution such as burning cigarettes and candles; using gas, propane, and wood burning stoves and furnaces; cooking; and vacuuming.
  • Individuals with heart disease or lung diseases such as asthma should follow their health care providers' advice about prevention and treatment of symptoms.

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, the Douglas County health department said.

How to tell if smoke is affecting you:

Smoke can cause:

A scratchy throat
Irritated sinuses
Shortness of breath
Chest pain
Stinging eyes
A runny nose
Asthma exacerbations

If you have heart or lung disease, smoke might make your symptoms worse.

People who have heart disease might experience:

Chest pain
Rapid heartbeat
Shortness of breath