In response to the major wildfires burning across southwest Oregon, Direct Relief’s Emergency Response Team has reached out to its health center network in the area and has sent overnight a shipment of urgent supplies to help people suffering from smoke-related symptoms.
Staff at Siskiyou Community Health Center, a Direct Relief partner with three sites in both Grants Pass and Cave Junction, in southern Oregon near the California border, said that air quality conditions are so poor that people are wearing masks indoors. Diane Banta, a health center staff member, reported an increase in patient visits, with many coming in with health complaints as a result of the poor air quality.
According to the Oregon Smoke blog maintained by government response agencies, Wednesday’s air quality was some of the worst yet, with health concerns hitting hazardous levels. The entire population in the area is likely to be affected by the poor air quality and local officials are recommending people remain indoors.
Because of the urgent need, Direct Relief sent more than one thousand N-95 particulate respirator face masks to Siskiyou and is preparing a more comprehensive shipment of medicines and supplies to further support the health center.
Direct Relief has a ready-to-ship stock of masks, inhalers, nebulizers and other items used to treat patients suffering from respiratory problems related to the fire and smoke.
During wildfires, the care offered by health centers and clinics such becomes critical. Wildfires pose serious health risks beyond the flames themselves.
The smoke contains particulate matter that can hurt the eyes, irritate the respiratory system, and worsen chronic heart and lung conditions, especially in children. Additionally, any rapid, mass evacuation raises general health risks for evacuees, particularly those who require medications to manage chronic conditions, like asthma and diabetes. These treatments are often forgotten when people rush to flee their homes in an emergency.
Direct Relief continues to monitor the situation and is prepared to support ongoing efforts to care for patients affected by the fires.
Siskiyou Community Health Center serves an estimated 11,000 patients annually. Direct Relief has worked with them for four years, providing medicines and supplies needed to treat people in need on an ongoing basis.
*The live, interactive map above shows Direct Relief health center partners (orange) in relation to the fires burning in Oregon.