Friday, August 16, 2013

Air ?very unhealthy? in Ketchum area

Wildfire smoke makes outdoor activity dangerous


By TONY EVANS
Express Staff Writer

    A morning weather inversion on Thursday left the Wood River Valley thick with smoke from the Beaver Creek Fire, creating dangerous conditions for exercise in a community that enjoys outdoor activity.
    A concert scheduled for River Run in Ketchum was canceled Wednesday due to the smoke. The Sun Valley Summer Symphony show for Thursday was also canceled. The Ketchum YMCA was closed Thursday.
    “People who are extremely vulnerable right now are those with chronic respiratory and heart issues,” said St. Luke’s Wood River Medical Center Emergency Medical Director Deborah Robertson. “If you know of any elderly neighbors who are living on their own, this would be a good time to check on them.”
    Robertson said a teenager and a middle-aged person were admitted to the emergency room Wednesday night with breathing complaints. They were treated and released. Both of them had a history of asthma, said Robertson. She said the hospital on Thursday was calling about 100 people in the Wood River Valley known to have chronic respiratory problems, and advising them about the hazardous conditions.
Robertson said people are advised to remain indoors and avoid exertion. She said remaining in air-conditioned buildings with re-circulating air would also reduce risk.
“Unfortunately, at 6,000 feet elevation there are a lot of people without air conditioning,” Robertson said.
Air quality in Ketchum on Thursday morning reached “very unhealthy levels,” due to wildfire smoke, according to a visibility index posted by the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality.
With visibility reduced to less than one mile, “people with heart or lung disease, older adults, and children should avoid all physical activity outdoors,” a DEQ warning states.


“If you know of any elderly neighbors
who are living on their own,
this would be a good time to check on them.”

Dr. Deborah Robertson
St. Luke’s



    The DEQ issued a Stage 1 caution Thursday for Blaine County, due to smoke from wildfires. A DEQ air-quality measuring station atop Hemingway Elementary School in Ketchum registered “unhealthy” conditions at 8 a.m., based on less than 1.5 miles of visibility.
    Areas south of Hailey, with less inversion and more wind, reported much better air quality.
    “If you are having problems in this area you don’t have to go too far to get better air quality,” said Robertson.
    On Thursday morning, Wood River High School athletic and activities director John Rade said the visibility was 0.75 miles. Boys’ and girls’ soccer practices have been adjusted and moved this week because of the smoke.
    Girls’ soccer coach Jenni Conrad canceled her 8 a.m. practice Thursday. Boys’ soccer coach Luis Monjaras and his team have been practicing indoors at a Bellevue arena. Coach Kevin Stilling and the Wood River football team is currently on a rafting retreat near Lowman, returning Saturday evening. The two-a-day pre-season football practices starting Monday, Aug. 19 will be moved indoors, Rade said.
    At the Community School, athletic coordinator Richard Whitelaw, who doubles as the head varsity soccer coach, said his team and coach Kelly Feldman’s girls’ squad practiced indoors at the school gym Wednesday and Thursday.
    “People are just having to adapt and be patient. It’s difficult to get all our work done,” said Whitelaw, whose soccer teams will travel as scheduled to a pre-season jamboree Saturday in Twin Falls.
    Whitelaw’s No. 1 scheduling issue is the season-opening Aug. 23-24 home games for the boys and girls against McCall-Donnelly. He and Feldman are already talking about moving those games to McCall.    


Tony Evans: tevans@mtexpress.com




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