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Fire Season Increases Potential For Hazardous Smoke

Douglas Forest Protective Association
File — This photo shows a 2013 fire in the Douglas Complex in southern Oregon.";s

Hot and dry conditions are expected to create above-normal wildfire conditions in parts of the Northwest this summer. While relatively few people will have to flee the flames, many more will experience a side effect of the fires: thick, acrid smoke.

Every summer, smoke from a distant wildfire settles into a populated valley. At first, it's an annoyance. But after awhile, the irritation turns into real concern. That's especially true for at-risk groups such as the elderly, young children and those with heart or lung disease.

Bruce Gutelius, a doctor with the Oregon Public Health Division, offered advice for when the smoke gets really bad.

"You want to stay indoors, avoid doing strenuous things outdoors. Keep the windows and the doors closed if you can," he said. "And keep the indoor air as clean as you can."

Gutelius said there’s no real advantage to wearing a typical dust mask when you are outdoors because it doesn’t offer an adequate level of protection from particulates. And it's the fine particulates in wildfire smoke that cause the most problems.

Chris Lehman graduated from Temple University with a journalism degree in 1997. He landed his first job less than a month later, producing arts stories for Red River Public Radio in Shreveport, Louisiana. Three years later he headed north to DeKalb, Illinois, where he worked as a reporter and announcer for NPR–affiliate WNIJ–FM. In 2006 he headed west to become the Salem Correspondent for the Northwest News Network.