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Medford Residents Deal With Smoke

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MEDFORD, Ore. — Behind a thick shroud of smoke, the Rogue Valley Manor sits like a ghost town.

“It’s fear. It’s very difficult for older people,” 80-year old Doyne Mraz explained.

The Manor is making announcements urging residents to stay inside. But for Mraz, who works as a teacher at Rogue Community College, that isn’t so easy.

“I don’t want to stay inside any more than I have to, but I’m really more comfortable with the mask,” Mraz commented.

The Department of Environmental Quality says air conditions like this can cause difficulty breathing and exacerbate asthma symptoms. But unlike Mraz, some don’t have any choice.

“We worked it out with the attendants,” store director of the Medford Fred Meyer, Matt Bengs, said. “They needed something, so we worked out the respirators.”

Fred Meyer, which is already sold out of masks, says they had to do something. Without a policy for situations like this, it was play it by ear.

“We want them to be open with us,” Bengs explained. “So if they need to go inside or go home for the day that’s okay.”

But for some workers, even wearing a mask isn’t an option.

“You’re re-breathing warm air, you’re trying to cool down,” Mike Hansen, owner of South Valley Construction said. “Your internal body temperature tries to cool down when you’re breathing even though it’s hot outside and it’s just kind of claustrophobic, you know.”

For South Valley Construction, it’s a choice between overheating or breathing bad air. They’re letting their employees decide, at least for the time being.

“They’re out there wanting to get it done, and I understand that but there’s a point where you gotta say stop,” Hansen added.

They say even in unhealthy or hazardous conditions, you can’t just shut everything down.

“You gotta make a living, you know, so catch 22.”