State, local agencies ask residents to refrain from outdoor burning

A controlled burn in the Tillamook State Forest from 2016. Photo: Chas Hundley

Coronavirus resources: CDC on the coronavirusOregon Health Authority resourcesWashington County resourcesOregonian reporting on the coronavirusOPB glossary of coronavirus termsNYTimes free reporting on the coronavirus

OREGON – It’s not a law, but a coalition of agencies, including local Washington County fire & rescue agencies are asking those who would normally take advantage of the nicer spring weather to conduct outdoor and debris burns to, well, please not. 

 “We recognize that debris burning is a necessary way for many land owners to manage their property, but with all that’s happening around COVID 19, the smoke can create problems for those with already compromised health,” read a statement on the Forest Grove Fire & Rescue Facebook page. 

The Oregon Office of Emergency Management noted the following agencies asking folks to stop burning: the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, the Oregon Department of Forestry, the Oregon State Fire Marshal’s Office, the Oregon Department of Agriculture, and the Oregon Health Authority. 

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They listed these potential issues: 

–Smoke inhalation can cause upper respiratory symptoms, which could be incorrectly attributed to COVID-19, leading to unnecessary testing or self-isolation.

–Exposure to smoke and other forms of air pollution can increase the risk of contracting infectious respiratory disease such as COVID-19, increase the severity of existing respiratory infections, and worsen underlying chronic respiratory conditions.

–There is a severe shortage of personal protective equipment to reduce smoke exposure at this time.

–First responders and other emergency services are operating at a reduced capacity and have limited resources to respond to out-of-control burns.

–COVID-19 affects the respiratory system. Fever, cough and difficulty breathing are the most common symptoms. While some people with COVID-19 are hospitalized, most patients recover at home, where smoke from a nearby outdoor burn could worsen their condition.

Chas Hundley is the editor of the Banks Post and sister news publications the Gales Creek Journal and the Salmonberry Magazine. He grew up in Gales Creek and has a cat.

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