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Health Officials Urge Caution During Prescribed Fire Season

PRINEVILLE, OR -- Ochoco National Forest firefighters plan to ignite burn piles at Skull Hollow Campground on Tuesday. The piles of woody debris are leftover from the construction of a parking lot fence, trailhead expansion and other improvements made to the campground off Lone Pine Road, in the Crooked River National Grassland. 

With prescribed burn season underway, local public health officials urge Central Oregonians to be smoke ready. Whether a fire is a planned event or wild, "Smoke is smoke," says Crook County Health and Human Services Director Katie Plumb. During prescribed fires, professionals account for weather conditions in an effort to mitigate the impact. But Plumb says you should still avoid the small particulates in fire smoke, "Limiting our exposure to smoke is beneficial for our health." She tells KBND News, "For folks who are maybe experiencing heart or lung problems, like asthma or any kind of cardiovascular disease, it’s even more important that we limit our exposure to smoke."

If your home doesn’t have a central air filtration system, you can can build your own. "You can go online and find how you can use a box fan to build air filtration systems in your home, if you don’t already have one," says Plumb. There are also precautions you can take if you’re driving through an area with poor air quality, "Making sure that you have the right settings in your car, so that your car isn’t pulling that air into your cab, where you are. And there are settings to recirculate air internally."

Plumb also recommends parents of kids with asthma or other respiratory issues plan indoor activities to keep kids busy during burn operations, "The really good thing about prescribed burning season, specifically, is it’s typically a pretty short duration and we can plan around it. So that can help you, as a parent, maybe manage that a little bit more."

If you are unable to escape the smoke, "You can also find clean air shelters in your community. Again, I’m speaking on behalf of Crook County, but these shelters are available throughout the state. You can go to 211info.org to find one that’s nearby." You can also get the information by calling 211. And, you can monitor air quality in your area online HERE.

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