1004352062 readers photos dehart july IMG-3826.jpeg
Pamela DeHart took this photo of a sunrise south of Ashland as seen through a veil of smoke on Friday, July 20.

DEQ urges people to stay indoors to avoid bad air

Air quality has deteriorated to very unhealthy conditions for everyone in the Medford-Ashland area, and small children and pregnant women should consider leaving the valley, according to the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality on Monday.

The DEQ’s air monitoring stations recorded very unhealthy air in Ashland, Medford and Klamath Falls Monday morning, with Shady Cove at hazardous levels.

“We don’t expect conditions to improve much over the next several days,” said Katherine Benenati, spokeswoman for DEQ.

Dozens of fires ringing the valley will continue to funnel unhealthy smoke into the region for the foreseeable future. High temperatures are anticipated through this week, and thunderstorms could spark more wildfires.

Health officials are urging residents to avoid strenuous outdoor activity. People with heart disease, asthma or other respiratory ailments have a higher risk of illness from wildfire smoke. Those over 65 are particularly susceptible.

Small children and pregnant women are at increased risk and should consider leaving the area until air quality improves, according to the DEQ.

Residents can view current air quality conditions at https://oraqi.deq.state.or.us/home/map.

Forecasters say the current conditions may prove to be a repeat performance of 2017, when unhealthy air quality was registered off and on from July to September.

“It’s not looking good for the rest of this summer,” said Marc Spilde, meterologist for the National Weather Service in Medford.

Air quality in the Medford area ranks as one of the poorest in the country now.

“We’re at ground zero for the worst air quality, according to the maps,” Spilde said.

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