Oregon fires and smoke concerns

by Lisa Landreman, Vice President for Student Affairs,

Dear Students,

Like many of you I have been horrified and frightened as I have watched the news and heard accounts of the wildfire devastation in towns across Oregon and the West Coast. More than 500,000 Oregon residents — more than 10 percent of the state’s population — have evacuated their homes.

My heart goes out to the families and communities who have experienced the loss of their homes, businesses and communities and whose lives will be forever impacted by this tragedy. For those who have lived through fire I can imagine how traumatic it can be to be surrounded by fire and to be reminded of your own pain and loss caused by fire.

All reports are that Salem is not at risk of being directly impacted by the fires. As thankful as we are to be out of immediate danger of the wildfires burning in the Cascade foothills, we continue to monitor it closely. In the unlikely event that the fires move closer to Salem and campus, official warnings and evacuation orders would be issued by Marion County Emergency Management or the City of Salem Emergency Management. You would be notified via the university emergency communication system via a text, phone and email about next steps. Marion County Emergency Management and the National Guard would coordinate our evacuation if needed. 

You can stay up to date with the latest wildfire locations and sizes with the OEM dashboard and the Marion County Emergency Management System website. You can sign up for alerts from the city of Salem on this website.

We recognize that the air quality constitutes a safety concern for those with underlying medical conditions and encourage you to be in conversations with your medical professionals for guidance. Those with respiratory issues should take extra caution and avoid going outside. Per the Centers for Disease Control, those with respiratory issues should follow the advice of your doctor or other healthcare provider about medicines and about your respiratory management plan if you have asthma or another lung disease.

We advise everyone to limit outdoor activities and keep your windows closed until the air quality index reaches safe levels. It is reported that air quality will significantly improve by Sunday. You can check on air quality by using this link that monitors the potentially dangerous levels of smoke in the air.  We will send a separate message with ideas of what to do when you’re stuck indoors. 

If you reside off campus in an area impacted by the fires, the following resources are available.

We understand that you may need time away from your coursework to focus on more immediate needs. If you are unable to engage in your coursework at this time, let your professors know — they truly want to support you. Many of us share the concerns expressed about the feelings of stress and helplessness as we deal with the consequences of the fires that are compounded by politically and racially-motivated violence and the pandemic. I imagine we are all wondering when will we get some relief. We are being tested in ways we could not have imagined as we are navigating uncharted territory in so many ways. 

Please remember that WUTALK 503-375-5353 is available to you 24/7 if you would like professional counseling support. Let us know if we can be of any assistance as you navigate any additional barriers. You can email Tori Ruiz, truiz@willamette.edu if you may need some additional support or resources.  

Take Care,

Lisa Landreman

Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students

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