Air quality remains a concern

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WALLA WALLA — Public health departments in Walla Walla and Umatilla counties are alerting residents to the compromised air quality due to wildfires in Oregon and Washington.

The air is unhealthy for people in certain groups, including those with lung and heart disease, stroke, diabetes or a current respiratory infection. Infants, children, and older adults should also limit outdoor activities.

Walla Walla public schools have been checking with his staff for recommendations about outdoor activities, said Harvey Crowder, administrator for Walla Walla County Health Department this morning.

The School District plans to let students without known health risks associated with poor air quality to go outside for physical education classes and recess, the district said in a release.

A Walla Walla High School choir fundraiser will be postponed because of air conditions. Norb Rossi, Wa-Hi director of choirs, said the Sudsathon car wash slated for Saturday will instead be Oct. 6 at O’Reilly’s, 715 W. Poplar St. “The ash conditions are not conducive to my student’s health, or to the finish of most cars.”

Real-time updates on air quality can be found at fortress.wa.gov/ecy/enviwa/. However, increased traffic to the site has made accessibility spotty, Crowder said.

Information on exposure to smoke is available at ubne.ws/TdO6Ss.

Officials and parents are making decisions based on advice from the Department of Ecology, Crowder added. “And out of an abundance of caution, they are going beyond those recommendations.”

An increase in the breeze is predicted this afternoon, but only time will tell if that shifts the smoke, he noted.

Umatilla County health officials said Thursday afternoon the Okanogan and Wenatchee Complex fires and a weather inversion are creating hazardous and smoky conditions for the county. The National Weather Service issued a hazardous weather outlook for northeast Oregon for the next several days, officials said in a press release.

Health experts recommend avoiding smoke when it appears or smells the heaviest by staying indoors or when the Department of Environmental Quality indicates “unhealthy” air conditions, closing and sealing all windows and doors. If your air conditioner uses re-circulated air, continue running it. If possible, use a filter in your heating/cooling system that removes very fine particulate matter. If your air conditioner pulls in air from outside, turn it off. Locking windows may provide a tighter seal from the smoky air.

People with concerns about health issues, including those suffering from asthma or other respiratory conditions, should follow their breathing management plans; keep medications on hand, and contact health care providers if necessary.

The recommendations will continue until further notice, pending changing wind direction and temperatures, said Genni Lehnert-Beers, administrator of Umatilla County Public Health Department.

To check the status of air above Umatilla County, go to www.deq.state.or.us/aq/burning/wildfires/index.htm.

Updates on the Washington state and Oregon wildfires can be found at inciweb.org, or www.wrh.noaa.gov/pdt.

Sheila Hagar can be reached at sheilahagar@wwub.com or 526-8322.

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