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Forest fire smoke has the potential to send some of us indoors - whether that be for a day or even a week at a time

PHOTO COURTESY OF OCHOCO NATIONAL FOREST
 - The next time someone is wheezing due to smoke in the air, be vigilant and aware of their condition. A serious episode happens very quickly. Most of all, be empathetic.

As another prescribed burn fills the horizon with haze, Crook County residents brace themselves for another week of smoke-filled skies.

For most, smoky skies are more of a nuisance than anything else. For the majority of people, it might make their eyes water or cause some sinus irritation, but nothing worrisome. For those of us who have asthma or sensitivity to smoke, the news of an upcoming prescribed burn is more than an inconvenience. Forest fire smoke has the potential to send some of us indoors—whether that be for a day or even a week at a time.

I understand the need for prescribed burning, and I am not questioning the many prescribed burns that are administered in the springtime and fall seasons. These burns help clean the undergrowth in our forests to prevent worsening fires during the summer fire season. They are important tools to helping keep our forests and parks healthy.

What some folks need to understand is that to those who are unlucky enough to be adversely affected by smoky skies, the particulates can be deadly and or at the very least, debilitating. During one especially bad fire season, I spent the summer on prednisone and my nebulizer just to breathe. I made multiple trips to urgent care and my pulmonologist. I made the mistake of posting something about the toxic air on Facebook, and I had comments like, "We are all having to deal with the bad air."

So, next time you are agitated about someone who has respiratory problems verbalizing how bad the air is during fire season, have some empathy. In a research done by The National Library of Medicine, "The increasing frequency of large wildland fires, the expansion of the wildland-urban interface, the area between unoccupied land and human development; and an increasing and aging U.S. population are increasing the number of people at-risk from wildfire smoke, thus highlighting the necessity for broadening stakeholder cooperation to address the health effects of wildfire."

They also addressed respiratory morbidity, which includes asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), bronchitis and pneumonia. "The epidemiological data linking wildfire smoke exposure to cardiovascular mortality and morbidity is mixed, and inconclusive."

That said, the issue of the particulates from fire smoke are more than a nuisance to some folks. There still needs to be some solid data on how the air from wildfires affects asthmatics and those with respiratory problems. Asthma attacks can be serious, and we lost one of our own here in Prineville approximately one year ago because of a fatal asthma attack.

The next time someone is wheezing due to smoke in the air, be vigilant and aware of their condition. A serious episode happens very quickly. Most of all, be empathetic.


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