Smoke suspends sports and school


Jamie Bikales

Smoke sits over the West Hills on Sept. 5, the day when PPS decided on an early release and cancelled sports events.

On Sept. 2, a human-caused fire in the Eagle Creek Wilderness was reported to authorities. Since then, the fire has grown to over 37,000 acres, forcing hundreds to evacuate and destroying landmarks in the Columbia River Gorge.

Another consequence of the fire has been poor air quality throughout the Portland metro area. This has resulted in the Oregon Schools Activities Association cancelling countless games and practices, and most notably, Portland Public Schools implementing an early release on Sept. 5. The poor air conditions began Sept. 4 when smoke and ash were noticeable in the Portland Metro Area. Despite this, outdoor practices were still held.

The next day, PPS let students out two hours early, citing excessive heat and an inability to open windows due to the air quality. This led to all outdoor sports being cancelled for the day. These cancellations continued until Sept. 7, when the smoke moved out and sports resumed as scheduled.

With unhealthy levels of smoke within the air, administrators were forced to make tough calls. The district along with the athletic directors of each school were left to make the final calls on games.

Jessica Russell, Lincoln athletic director, explained, “It was a collaboration. The district gave certain parameters on where the air quality needed to be to play or practice outside and I encouraged that they make the call to cancel them early in the day when I saw high readings on a couple of sites. I normally like to let our families know if there will be a cancellation at around 11, so they can plan accordingly. You don’t want kids on the bus on the way to Sprague only to be told at 3 that their game is cancelled.¨

For football, the poor air conditions resulted in the loss of two practices. The lack of quality practice time may have contributed to a 45-0 loss to Clackamas on Sept. 8, some players said, though they did not want to use it as an excuse.

“I definitely think that lack of preparation came into play, but still, that’s no excuse for our poor performance,” said junior lineman Ivan Elsener.

Cross Country practices were also cancelled, and runners were told to run indoors on a treadmill if they could do so safely. Additionally, the PIL Preview at Fernhill Park was pushed back a week due to the smoke.

Junior and cross-country runner Parker Denton said, “While I was able to run on a treadmill, it just isn’t the same. I wasn’t able to train the way I was hoping and I was very disappointed that our race got pushed back.”

Even indoor sports were affected. Volleyball had to reschedule a game and cancel a practice.

“I don’t understand why our practice was cancelled because the air inside of the gym didn’t seem to be affected. We could have practiced and just ensured that no windows were opened, but I guess rules are rules,” says junior Grace Zilbert, a member of the varsity team.

The consequences of wildfires can be detrimental so it is important to note, as Smokey Bear says, “only you can prevent wildfires.”