TALENT, Ore.— KDRV Wildfire smoke is still lingering around Southern Oregon and Northern California.
Many people are ready to go back to the evacuated areas, but the Communications Manager for Oregon’s Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) Harry Esteve said it might take longer than some people would like.
“These are pretty unpresidented. The amount of fire damage, the number of homes burned and structure burned is just something Oregon hasn’t seen,” Esteve said. “I don’t really have an answer on the timeline. I know people want to get started quickly. I think we’ll know more in the next few days.”
He said the DEQ is working with federal government agencies. These agencies are helping assess the environmental risks and debris removal as well as funding. In the meantime, he suggests people stay away from areas affected by the fires.
“Right now, and this is not the greatest message but, our message is to be patient,” Esteve said. “It’s pretty dangerous to go back to these burn structure and to disturb the material there because its very likely it has hazardous substance there, partially asbestos.”
Harry said there can also be other dangerous chemicals in the air from metals being burned. The Jackson County Medical Director Jim Shames said these chemicals are not a big concern as long as people folloe evacuation orders. Dr. Shames said the big concern is the amount of people displaced and forced to breathe in wildfire smoke.
“This much exposure to toxic air is really bad for your immediate health and can be bad for your longterm health,” Dr. Shames said.
He said the dust and particles are so small it can make its way into a person’s blood stream and this can irritate the heart. Dr. Shames encourages everyone to wear either an N95 or KN95 mask.
“It is a reversal of our message, fortunately we are in a position now we can offer these new masks,” Dr. Shames said. “These masks are excellent to wear for Covid as well.”
Dr. Shames said he recommends people to buy one and keep it for future use as well. He also said they are trying to disperse masks to areas such as the Jackson County Expo Center.