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The original item was published from 9/14/2020 10:10:54 AM to 9/18/2020 12:00:02 AM.

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Public Health

Posted on: September 14, 2020

[ARCHIVED] DEQ extends statewide air quality advisory

DEQ extends statewide air quality advisory

KLAMATH FALLS, Ore. – Klamath County Public Health (KCPH) officials report that the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality is extending a statewide air quality advisory through Thursday, September 17.

The air quality in the Klamath Basin is anticipated to range from unhealthy to hazardous throughout the week.

Widespread fires in Oregon, California and Washington will continue to affect air quality throughout the Pacific Northwest. At 9 this morning the DEQ monitoring website reported Klamath Falls had an air quality index of 159, or unhealthy. The index routinely fluctuates throughout the day.

Statewide, 10% of emergency room visits since last Thursday have been asthma-like symptoms, directly related to the wildfire smoke.

“The community has seen extended periods of hazardous air quality. Staying indoors remains the best way to prevent smoke exposure,” said KCPH Director Jennifer Little. “Creating a clean air space in one room, with a filtering device is ideal.”

Little noted that filters and fans have become highly sought after throughout Oregon. Placing a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter on the discharge side of a box fan is a simple way to filter indoor air.

She also said that residents should ensure they have five-day supply of medication to prevent a need to go out to the pharmacy. Those with respiratory and cardiac disease are especially vulnerable during periods of heavy smoke intrusion.

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.

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.

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:

Daily AQI ColorLevels of ConcernValues of IndexDescription of Air Quality
GreenGood0 to 50Air quality is satisfactory, and air pollution poses little or no risk.
YellowModerate51 to 100Air quality is acceptable. However, there may be a risk for some people, particularly those who are unusually sensitive to air pollution.
OrangeUnhealthy for Sensitive Groups101 to 150Members of sensitive groups may experience health effects. The general public is less likely to be affected.
RedUnhealthy151 to 200Some members of the general public may experience health effects; members of sensitive groups may experience more serious health effects.
PurpleVery Unhealthy201 to 300Health alert: The risk of health effects is increased for everyone.
MaroonHazardous301 and higherHealth warning of emergency conditions: everyone is more likely to be affected.

The KCPH air quality webpage can be found at Hourly updates are available at

Estimating visibility using the 5-3-1 Index

Determine the limit of your visual range by looking for distant targets or familiar landmarks such as mountains or buildings at known distances (miles). The visual range is that point at which these targets are no longer visible. As a general rule of thumb: if you can clearly see the outlines of individual trees on the horizon it is less than five miles away.

Ideally, the viewing of any distance targets should be made with the sun behind you. Looking into the sun or at an angle increases the ability of sunlight to reflect off of the smoke, and makes the visibility estimate less reliable.

Once distance has been determined, follow this simple guide:

If visibility is well over five miles, the air quality is generally good.

Even if visibility is five miles away but generally hazy, air quality is moderate and beginning to deteriorate, and is generally healthy, except possibly for smoke sensitive persons. The general public should avoid prolonged exposure if conditions are smoky to the point where visibility is closer to the 5-mile range.

If under five miles, the air quality is unhealthy for young children, adults over age 65, pregnant women, and people with heart and/or lung disease, asthma or other respiratory illness. These people should minimize outdoor activity.

If under three miles, the air quality is unhealthy for everyone. Young children, adults over age 65, pregnant women, and people with heart and/or lung disease, asthma or other respiratory illness. These people should minimize outdoor activity.

If under one mile, the air quality is unhealthy for everyone. Everyone should avoid all outdoor activities.

Using the 5-3-1 Visibility Index

Distance you can see*

You are:



You have


An adult

A teenager

An older child

Age 65 and over


A young child


Respiratory illness

Lung or heart disease

5 miles

check visibility

minimize outdoor activity

minimize outdoor activity

3 miles

minimize outdoor activity

stay inside

stay inside

1 mile

stay inside

stay inside

stay inside


No matter how far you can see, if you feel like you are having health effects from smoke exposure, take extra care to stay inside or get to an area with better air quality. You should also see your doctor or other health professional as needed.

* less reliable under high humidity conditions


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