Mount Emily nowhere to be seen through the smoke

Smoke erases the view of Mount Emily on Monday, Sept. 14, from The Observer’s office in La Grande. The haze from Western Oregon wildfires shrouded the 6,100-foot tall mountain north of La Grande during the weekend. Oregon Department of Environmental Quality on Monday extended its statewide air quality advisory through Thursday.

LA GRANDE — The poor air quality the Grande Ronde Valley has experienced since Friday, Sept. 11, does not appear to be taking a toll on the health of residents.

Grande Ronde Hospital, La Grande, reported it did not see an increase in the number of patients with respiratory problems this weekend.

“There has been no spike in patients with upper respiratory issues due to the smoke,” said Mardi Ford, the hospital’s director of communications and marketing.

The La Grande Fire Department reported Monday, Sep. 14, it responded to nine calls for medical assistance on Friday, six on Saturday and six on Sunday. The total was about average for the number of calls the fire department receives for medical assistance on weekends, said Capt. Jerid Ployhar. Statistics for the number of these calls that involved respiratory issues was not available.

Ployhar said he believes the lack of a spike in calls for medical assistance may indicate people are staying indoors.

La Grande’s air quality index Monday morning, according to the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality’s air quality monitoring data website, was in the very unhealthy range. The index reported the air quality became increasingly worse Friday, when the index went from 78 in the late afternoon to 192 by 8 p.m. The air quality was at its worst Saturday morning, when it peaked at 309.

Air quality ratings of 0-50 are good, 50-100 are moderate, 100-150 are unhealthy for sensitive groups, 150-200 are unhealthy, 200-300 are very unhealthy and ratings beyond that are in hazardous category.

The air quality monitoring website +IQAir projects an improvement in La Grande air, with the numbers dropping to 180 on Tuesday, 162 on Wednesday and 158 on Thursday.

While La Grande’s air quality index is poor, it remains much better than on the other side of the state. According to the DEQ data, Salem was at 352, Sweethome was at 450 and Tualatin and Portland were each at 501, the worst in the state.

The Oregon DEQ issued an air quality advisory for the state and for southwest Washington through Thursday, extending the advisory it issued late last week. In a press release, the DEQ said smoke levels are “fluctuating between unhealthy and hazardous” throughout the state.

General assignment reporter

Beats include the communities of North Powder, Imbler, Island City and Union, education, Union County veterans programs and local history. Dick joined The Observer in 1983, first working as a sports and outdoors reporter.

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