Monday, the first day of fall sports practices, was sunny and a pleasant 88 degrees, a reprieve from the triple-digit temperatures suffocating the area last week.
By Tuesday, however, the air was taking on a hazy tinge and the weather warnings were rolling in.
For members of the Baker High School football staff, this meant refreshing the air quality index hourly, said coach Dave Johnson.
They also kept an eye on the Oregon School Activities Association(OSAA) air quality guidelines to interpret conditions and to decide whether or not practice should continue as usual.
On Tuesday and Wednesday, conditions entered the “unhealthy for sensitive groups” rating and Johnson said they moved practice indoors and started later.
Baker remained in the yellow, or “moderate,” zone Thursday, and Johnson said they were able to take practice back out to the field.
“We’re trying to get back on track,” Johnson said Thursday. “We’re back outside this morning.”
Although they can still have practice if they move indoors, Johnson said they’re limited with what they can do in the gym.
Titus Wilson, head coach of Burnt River High School’s football team at Unity, said he, too, finds taking it indoors too limiting.
He canceled Wednesday’s practice because of the air.
With Burnt River’s gym occupied by volleyball practice, Wilson said the most they could do is go over plays in the hallway, “but what we need right now is physical activity.”
That made Thursday’s practice for Burnt River’s six-man team its first practice with everyone together.
Wilson said the school’s athletic director keeps him updated on conditions every day.
He also said Baker football staff members called the Burnt River school to see if they could come practice on the Bull’s field because air quality was slightly better on the other side of the Dooley Mountains.
OSAA guidelines state that if the air quality index rises above 100, practices or competitions “shall be canceled or moved to an area with a lower AQI. Move practices indoors, if available.”
Although when the air quality is “moderate,” or indexed at 51-100, practice can resume outdoors, OSAA still warns that athletes with asthma “should have rescue inhalers readily available and pretreat before exercise or as directed by their healthcare provider. Increase rest periods as needed.”
Poor air quality affecting fall practices isn’t a new issue, and Johnson said they know how to adjust.
“Fires happen out here so we get the smoke,” said Johnson. “We don’t manage the smoke, we manage the football around the smoke.”
Burnt River began school on Wednesday, and Baker’s first day is Sept. 4.