Air quality warning issued due to smoke from Salt Creek and Shelly fires – Ashland News
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Air quality warning issued due to smoke from Salt Creek and Shelly fires – Ashland News

Ashland reported ‘unhealthy’ levels of smoke Monday afternoon

Rogue Valley Times Editorial Report

Jackson County officials issued an air quality advisory Monday as a growing blanket of smoke descended over the Rogue Valley while two wildfires continued to rage in the region.

The Salt Creek Fire in Jackson County reportedly burned about 1,500 acres toward the Lake Creek area off Eagle Point and Highway 140 Monday morning. Meanwhile, in Siskiyou County, the Shelly Fire, which started July 3, has grown to more than 3,300 acres and is not 0% contained.

The layer of smoke combined with record high temperatures prompted officials to open cooling shelters in Medford and Ashland.

Residents are advised to avoid areas with high smoke concentrations, stay indoors if possible – with doors and windows closed – and ensure good indoor air quality.

Air quality warning issued due to smoke from Salt Creek and Shelly fires – Ashland News
The Ashland Creek splash pad at Lithia Park proved a good place to cool off from Monday’s afternoon heat, which hovered just over 100 degrees Fahrenheit before air quality deteriorated significantly around 3 p.m. Ashland.news photo by Bob Palermini

The excessive heat warning is in effect from July 4 through Tuesday at 9 p.m. After that, cooler nighttime temperatures and slightly cooler daytime temperatures are expected. Jackson County officials said residents and visitors can expect poor air quality for the next few days, although the effects could last longer, depending on weather conditions and wildfire activity.

County officials are urging community members to take precautions to protect themselves from air pollution, which can cause a range of health problems, from lung irritation, inflammation, impaired immune function and increased susceptibility to respiratory infections.

Particulate matter (also known as “PM”) in wildfire smoke poses the greatest threat to public health. Particles larger than 10 micrometers typically irritate only the eyes, nose, and throat. Fine particles 2.5 micrometers or smaller (PM2.5) can be inhaled into the deepest parts of the lungs and even enter the bloodstream.

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

Inhaling wildfire smoke can immediately affect a person’s health, causing coughing, difficulty breathing, wheezing, asthma attacks, stinging eyes, scratchy throat, runny nose, sinus irritation, headaches, fatigue, chest pain, and rapid heart rate. Populations at particular risk for exposure to wildfire smoke include children, adults 65 years and 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 take advantage 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 up-to-date information about the Ashland Cooling Center, located at 2200 Ashland St., visit ashlandoregon.gov or text 97520SHELTER to 888777 to be notified of upcoming shelter launches.

The Ashland Public Library at 410 Siskiyou Blvd. is open Monday through Thursday from 10:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., Fridays from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., and Saturdays and Sundays from noon to 5:00 p.m.

The Medford cooling shelter, run by ACCESS volunteers, is scheduled to remain open until 8 p.m. Monday, then reopen from noon to 8 p.m. Tuesday, city officials announced. The Medford shelter is located at 324 W. 6th St. The shelter will provide water, restrooms, snacks, a cooling area and water for animals. Text MED4SHELTERS to 888777 to receive updates on Medford shelter activations, or check the ACCESS Facebook page, facebook.com/ACCESSHELPS.

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

Tips for dealing with wildfire smoke can be found online: airnow.gov/wildfires/when-smoke-is-in-the-air/#map.

Current air quality data can be found in the right column of the Ashland.news home page.

This story first appeared in Rogue Valley Times.