Originally published August 21, 2013 at 04:30p.m., updated August 22, 2013 at 09:41a.m.
A complex of wildfires burning several miles southwest of The Dalles are directly responsible for the darkened skies and decreased air quality in Hood River today.
The Government Flats Complex Fire was ignited by lightning strikes on Aug. 16 and has burned nearly 9,000 acres as of Wednesday afternoon. The Blackburn Fire is the most active and largest of the three wildfires in the complex. Over 800 firefighting personnel are working round the clock from the ground and the air to extinguish the flames that have consumed three homes and five outbuildings as of last count. The fire is still listed as only 15-percent contained.
Today, shifting winds have caused the Hood River Valley area to become inundated with acrid smoke, tinting the sky to a gauzy orange color. A Department of Environmental Quality monitoring station in The Dalles registered moderate levels of particulates in the air earlier today.
Although there is no DEQ air quality monitoring station in Hood River, the Hood River County Health Department issued an advisory today about the smoke and its potential health impacts:
Hood River County Public Health officials urge people throughout the county to take precautions as air quality may deteriorate and reach potentially unhealthy levels with shifting winds over the next 48 hours.
"People with chronic lung or heart conditions, the elderly and children have higher risk of health problems from the fine particles in wildfire smoke," said Bruce Gutelius, M.D., M.P.H., deputy state epidemiologist with the Oregon Public Health Division. "People who suffer from asthma or other respiratory conditions should follow their breathing management plans, keep medications on hand, and contact health care providers if necessary."
DEQ and local county health departments urge residents to take the following precautions to avoid breathing problems or other symptoms from smoke:
Be aware of smoke concentrations in your area and avoid the places with highest concentrations.
Residents can check the current local air quality conditions on DEQ's website at www.deq.state.or.us/aqi/ or call 503-229-6397
Avoid outdoor activities when air quality is unhealthy and hazardous.
To avoid smoke either leave the area or protect yourself by staying indoors, closing as many windows and doors as possible without letting your home overheat, and using a filter in your heating or cooling system that removes very fine particulate matter.
Avoid strenuous outdoor activity in smoky conditions. Young children and persons with heart or lung problems are especially vulnerable.
Persons suffering from asthma or other respiratory problems should follow their breathing management plans or contact their health care providers.
More info is available on the Oregon smoke blog at http://oregonsmoke.blogspot.com/.
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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"
Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See www.co.hood-river.or.us to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge