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Smokewise Ashland and extreme fire danger

It’s mid-July and we’ve had some smoke in the air, probably to no one’s surprise. Were you ready to deal with smoke? Luckily, it hasn’t been the kind of dense and lasting smoke we’ve seen in past years, but let that serve as a warning that it’s time to prepare for smokier skies to come.

The resources at smokewiseashland.org will help you stay healthy with all the information and resources you need. Let’s quickly review some of the most important elements of staying healthy during the worst of fire season.

  • Know your vulnerability. Those most vulnerable to smoke, even at lower density, are young children, older adults, anyone with a heart or lung condition, and pregnant women. If you fall into one of these categories, you need to take protective measures at lower Air Quality Index levels.
  • Create clean air space. Use a HEPA-grade portable air filter to make at least one room smoke-free in your home. The advantage of a portable filter is you can move it around, so you might keep it in the living room during the day and in a bedroom at night. Make sure to change the filters about once a year, or when the unit tells you the filter is dirty. You can use a fine filter on your furnace/air conditioner intake (like MERV 13), and that’s helpful but it doesn’t filter as many of the microscopic particles that get deep into your lungs as a HEPA portable cleaner.
  • Monitor the AQI. The Air Quality Index, or AQI, is a measure of how dense the smoke is. The AQI is color coded so it’s easy to understand and comes complete with health recommendations at each level. You can find the Ashland AQI reading through the Oregon DEQ at https://oraqi.deq.state.or.us/home/map and it’s also shown on the Smokewise Ashland site. Purple Air is another source for AQI readings, but make sure to choose a conversion factor like “US EPA” to get the correct AQI.
  • Wear a mask outdoors. We’re all too familiar with this, but make sure a mask for smoke has an N-95 rating or better to filter out the micro-particles and that it’s tight fitting! To see how to fit a mask, see Smokewise Ashland for a how-to video. Avoid going out if smoke is dense and don’t exercise outside if AQI levels indicate, no matter how sensitive you are.

To keep our area as free of smoke as possible we need to make sure fires don’t start. To that effect, fire season restrictions are in place on common sources of fires. Please see ashland.or.us/fireseason for a complete list of restrictions.

In short, extreme danger entails a total shutdown on gas-powered machinery (chainsaws, trimmers, etc.), but only in areas of dry vegetation. Work in irrigated landscapes can take place at any time of the day. Please only call to report violations if you’re certain the work is taking place in an area of dry vegetation. There is no open burning allowed during fire season and fireworks are banned year-round in the city of Ashland. Please help us keep Ashland safe this summer.

And as always, if you smell or see smoke, please don’t hesitate to call 911.