The Benton County Health Department reminds people that wildfire smoke could lead to health impacts. (Photo by Dave Alan/Getty Images via Canva)

The Benton County Health Department, in collaboration with Benton County Sheriff’s Office, Oregon Department of Forestry and the City of Corvallis, issued a reminder this week that wildfire smoke could lead to health impacts and urged residents to know the risks and be prepared.

“Recent wildfires are a reminder of how dangerous wildfire smoke can be and it is important to remember how to limit smoke exposure during wildfire,” Benton County Public Health Preparedness and Response Coordinator John Pegg said. “This includes reducing the amount of time spent outdoors and avoiding vigorous activities when air quality is poor.”

Pegg said that it is important to keep indoor air as clean as possible by closing windows and doors, using a HEPA (high-efficiency particulate) air filter and avoiding smoking tobacco or marijuana, using wood-burning stoves or fireplaces, burning candles or incense and vacuuming.

Officials said people can also limit exposure to smoke when driving in a vehicle by keeping windows closed with air conditioning set to recirculate. Drinking plenty of water can help reduce symptoms like scratchy throat and coughing.

Evacuating an area with thick smoke may be best for those with health conditions that put them at higher risk for illness from wildfire smoke, officials said, adding that those individuals should talk with loved ones to consider friends, family or shelters they might travel to stay with if smoke becomes thick.

Groups with higher risk for harmful health effects from wildfire smoke include:

• Persons with asthma or other chronic respiratory disease.

• Persons with cardiovascular disease.

• Persons 65 years of age and older.

• Infants and children.

• Pregnant women.

• Smokers, especially those who have smoked for several years

“Outdoor workers, community members experiencing homelessness, and people with health conditions are most at risk, so be sure to check on neighbors and loved ones when conditions are bad,” said Loren Emang, Public Health Emergency Preparedness Coordinator. “Recent wildfires have caused many Oregonians to evacuate and even lose homes so it is more important than ever to be prepared and take care of ourselves and each other. That includes knowing how to access mental and behavioral health resources if you or someone you know has been impacted by wildfire.”

Benton County Behavioral Health offers mental health counseling, substance use disorder treatment, and crisis services. Contact 541-766-6835 to find services or call 1-888-232-7192 if experiencing a mental health crisis.Community members can learn more about how to prepare for wildfire and smoke from the Oregon Health Authority Community Resources Page and stay up to date about wildfire smoke conditions by using the Oregon Smoke Blog and the U.S. Air Quality Index Monitoring tool, AirNow.