Wildfires and Air Quality
Wildfires have always been a part of life in the Pacific Northwest. As our climate changes and the wildfire season gets longer and more intense, smoke more frequently affects air quality in the Portland metro area. Lewis & Clark has established guidelines based on Oregon OSHA regulations to protect our community members from the hazards of wildfire smoke.
Air Quality Measurement
We use the Air Quality Index (AQI) to assess the hazard presented to our community by wildfire smoke. The AQI standard was developed by the U.S. Department of Environmental Quality, and measures the levels of particulate matter with a diameter in micrometers of 2.5 or less, commonly referred to as PM2.5, that are present in the air.
We have two PurpleAir reporting stations on campus that measure outdoor air quality. One station is located at the Griswold Stadium and the other is on the Graduate School campus. You can also find AQI information at AirNow and DEQ.
When AQI is in the 101–200 range, we have voluntary guidelines in place to protect students, faculty, and staff from wildfire smoke. Whenever AQI is 201 or higher (as measured by the two reporting stations we have on campus), protection requirements for employees (including student workers) are implemented, and the institution will:
- Communicate via RAVE alerts, email, and posting to lclark.edu about AQI levels and necessary precautions
- Take administrative action (relocating worksites, changing schedules) when feasible to reduce smoke exposure
- Provide NIOSH-approved respirators (N95 or better) for voluntary or mandatory use depending on AQI levels:
|101-200||Voluntary use of NIOSH-approved respirators by employees required to work in areas where they will be exposed. Fit testing and medical evaluation of these respirators is not required if they are being used exclusively for protection against wildfire smoke.|
|201-500||Required use of NIOSH-approved respirators by employees working in areas where they will be exposed. Fit testing and medical evaluation of these respirators is not required if they are being used exclusively for protection against wildfire smoke.|
|501+||Required use of NIOSH-approved respirators by employees working in areas where they will be exposed. In these conditions, fit testing and medical evaluation of these respirators is required.|
When use of respirators is recommended or required, location points for obtaining them will be shared via email and lclark.edu.
Wildfire Smoke Exposure
Mild symptoms of wildfire smoke exposure include coughing, runny nose, and eye irritation and inflammation, while more serious and sometimes fatal health effects include trouble breathing, asthma attacks, reduced lung function, chest pain, and heart attacks.
Employees have the right to report health issues, including those related to wildfire smoke exposure, and receive medical treatment if necessary. Employees who report health issues or obtain medical treatment must be allowed to do so without fear of retaliation. If you need to report a hazard, please tell your supervisor or a safety committee member about the hazard. You can also contact the nearest Oregon OSHA office. You can do that in person, by letter, fax, telephone, or visit osha.oregon.gov/workers.
Western Fire Chiefs Association (WFCA) Fire Map: The Western Fire Chiefs Association (WFCA) Fire Map depicts active and recent wildland fires in the western United States and Alaska based on real-time information.