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SISTERS, OR -- Firefighters began burnout operations on the Milli Fire, near Sisters, Thursday afternoon, and a cold front cleared skies enough to allow firefighting planes to resume aerial suppression efforts. While there wasn’t large fire growth, Thursday, it’s still spreading into the wilderness. As of Friday morning, the Milli Fire is estimated at 13, 485 acres with containment holding at 32% contained. Level one and two evacuation warnings remain in place. 

 
The Department of Environmental Quality is urging Central Oregonians to take precautions due to the smoke that continues to blanket the area. An Air Quality Alert has been issued for Deschutes County through noon Friday. Greg Svelund, with the DEQ’s Bend office, says the ongoing poor air quality is only partly due to the Milli Fire. "We are in a position right now, in Bend, that we are seeing smoke from both the north and the south. We’re seeing transport winds at much higher elevation actually bringing smoke from southern Oregon. At the same time, we are seeing smoke from the Milli Fire, which is to our north. So, it’s the worst of both worlds, right now." Svelund says the region may see some relief this weekend, "Sometime around Saturday evening, we should get some clearing and the wind should change and push a lot of that smoke out. But, really, this is something that’s become central to this part of Oregon. I mean, in this time of year, we get smoke from wildfires. Even if this smoke pushes out, it’s going to come back – it may be another day, it may be a week but it’s going to come back and people need to take precautions." 
 
But, what those precautions are, he says, should depend on each individual. Svelund tells KBND News, "People react much differently than other people; some people are more sensitive and so it’s really a very personal thing. Really, people just have to go out there and say ‘what am I experiencing? What’s my body telling me about the smoke?’ and then to make actions based on their own experiences." Schools and coaches are adjusting schedules to keep kids from participating in strenuous activities outside. Svelund says, "We’ve been contacted by water polo coaches and football coaches. I think there’s a lot more interest and awareness about smoke, especially as it harms or potentially harms children and those under 18, so it’s good to see a lot more awareness about health and how it is a serious health problem for a lot of people."
 
While he admits air quality monitoring sites are helpful in gathering data, he says what each person sees is an even better indicator of how serious conditions are at that moment. Svelund suggests using the 1-3-5 rule: if you can see no more than one mile, the air is likely hazardous; visibility of around three miles is probably unhealthy; and if you can see more than five miles, he says it equates to "good" on the air quality index. 

 

For more from Greg Svelund, visit our Podcast Page or click HERE

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