Air Quality Information and Resources

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Air Quality Information and Resources

Smoke Comparison

Updated: Sept. 18, 2017
Smoke from surrounding wildfires can be has engulfed the Medford area. According to the Air Quality Index, provided by the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), Medford is in the 'red' unhealthy zone for air quality.  Click here to check the Air Quality Index map.

Health Precautions

Jackson County public health officials have provided a Wildfire Smoke Guide advising residents to take the following precautions:
  • Be aware of smoke concentrations in your area and avoid the places with the highest concentrations.
  • Avoid smoke either by leaving the area or protecting yourself by staying indoors, and by closing windows and doors.
  • Avoid strenuous outdoor activity in smoky conditions.
  • People exposed to smoky conditions and who suffer from asthma or other respiratory problems should follow their breathing management plans or contact their healthcare providers.
  • Masks - If people must be outdoors, wearing a special mask called a "particulate respirator" can also help protect lungs from wildfire smoke. Dust masks that are not NIOSH-certified may not offer protection from small particulate matter, even if properly worn.
Click here for more Wildfire Smoke Guidance from Jackson County Public Health.

Tips for Wearing a Mask

IMPORTANT: If you do not properly adjust the fit of a mask to your face after putting it on, it will be useless. Air must be inhaled and exhaled THROUGH the mask, NOT AROUND it, or there’s no point in wearing one.
 
We are recommending a NIOSH approved at least N95 rated mask or better. Put it on to fit your face as follows:
  • Place the bowl of the mask cone with lower under your chin and metal nose piece adjustment up.
  • Pull the top headband over your head and above the ears.
  • Pull the bottom headband over your head and below the ears.
  • Push (pinch slightly) the nosepiece inward to conform to the shape of your nose.
  • Check mask as you breathe in and out. You should NOT feel any air escaping around the edge of the cone or under the nose piece.
  • If you feel air leaking around nose or edges (or if your glasses fog), adjust the nose-piece and/or headbands until a good fit is achieved.
 
A properly fitting mask can be hot and steamy—it’s not very comfortable. And with exertion, it will be even less so. But if you are out in smoke soup, especially for an extended time or with much exertion, then it may be worth the slight discomfort to breathe better air. And over time one can get used to the awkward feeling of covering most of their face. However, remember that consultation with your medical provider about what is best for YOU is warranted if you have special health conditions.
 

How to Know the Level of Risk

What is the level of risk? You may check online sources for air quality ratings such as: http://oregonsmoke.blogspot.com/.  But it may not reflect the current condition where you are. You may also assess the air quality condition yourself by observation of distance. To assess visibility:
  •          Face away from the sun.
  •          Determine visibility range by looking for targets that are at known distances (miles).  
  •          The visibility range is the distance at which high-contrast objects disappear.  
  •          After determining visibility in miles, use the following Wildfire Smoke Visibility Index to assess air quality.
 
Below is a table prepared by Jackson County Environmental Health that serves as a useful tool.
 
Visibility range Health category   Cautionary statements
15 miles and up Good   None
8 to 14 miles Moderate   None
3 to 7 miles Unhealthy for sensitive groups   People with respiratory or heart disease, the elderly and children should limit prolonged exertion.
1˝ to 2˝ miles Unhealthy   People with respiratory or heart disease, the elderly and children should avoid prolonged exertion; everyone else should limit prolonged exertion.
1 mile Very unhealthy   People with respiratory or heart disease, the elderly and children should avoid any outdoor activity; everyone else should avoid prolonged exertion.
Less than ˝ mile Hazardous   Everyone should avoid any outdoor exertion; people with respiratory or heart disease, the elderly and children should remain indoors.
 
 

Fire Restrictions

With multiple wildfires burning around southern Oregon the prevention of human-caused fire remains critical. Please exercise caution and follow all fire restrictions currently in place  (see below for a full list of restrictions).  The mowing of dead or dried grass with power-driven equipment is prohibited between the hours of 1 p.m. - 8 p.m. Please note: Mowing your green, irrigated lawn is allowed.

The following fire prevention regulations are provided by the Oregon Department of Forestry - The fire danger level has been lowered to "moderate" (blue). 

As a reminder, public fire restrictions which will remain in effect, include:
  • No debris burning, including piles and debris, burned in burn barrels.
  • No fireworks on forestlands.
  • Exploding targets and tracer ammunition, or any bullet with a pyrotechnic charge in its base, are prohibited.
  • Campfires are allowed only in designated campgrounds. Portable stoves using liquefied or bottled fuels may be used in other locations.
  • Motorized vehicles are allowed only on improved roads; one shovel and one gallon of water, or one 2.5 pound or larger fire extinguisher, is required while traveling.
  • Smoking while traveling will only be allowed in enclosed vehicles on improved roads, in boats on the water and other specifically designated locations.
  • Chain saws may not be used between 10:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m. during high fire danger. During hours outside of this time frame, chain saws may be used but require that the operator have one shovel and one 8-oz or larger fire extinguisher at the work site. A fire watch is also required for one hour after each chainsaw use.
  • Cutting, grinding, and welding of metal is not allowed between 10:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m. during high fire danger. These activities will be allowed during hours outside of this time frame only if the work site is cleared of potentially flammable vegetation and other materials, and a water supply is at the job site.
  • The mowing of dead or dried grass with power-driven equipment is not allowed between 10:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m. during high fire danger. This restriction does not include mowing of green lawns, or equipment used for the commercial culture and harvest of agricultural crops.
  • Any other spark-emitting internal combustion engine-use not specifically mentioned is not allowed between 10:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m. during high fire danger. Use of any spark-emitting internal combustion engine is allowed outside of this time frame only if the work site is cleared of potentially flammable vegetation and other materials, and a water supply is at the job site.
  • Any electric fence controllers must be approved by a nationally recognized testing laboratory, such as Underwriters Laboratories Inc., or be certified by the Department of Consumer and Business Services, and be installed and used in compliance with the fence controller’s instructions for fire safe operation.

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