Wildfire Smoke: What to Know & How to Stay Safe

Wildfires are increasingly common due to a combination of factors, including climate change, which leads to hotter and drier conditions conducive to fire spread. Human activities such as land-use changes and fire suppression practices also play significant roles in wildfire frequency and intensity.

What’s the Impact of Wildfires on Air Quality? During wildfires, the combustion of vegetation and other materials in the fire’s path releases harmful pollutants such as particulate matter (PM 2.5 and PM 10), carbon monoxide (CO), volatile organic compounds (VOCs), nitrogen oxides (NOx), and more into the air. These pollutants can cause respiratory problems and exacerbate existing health conditions. Vulnerable populations, including children, the elderly, and individuals with respiratory issues, are particularly at risk but everyone can suffer from the impact of smoke.

How to Stay Safe During Poor Air Quality During a Wildfire

  1. Monitor Air Quality: Stay informed about local air quality conditions with the JustAir app, government agencies, and other reliable sources. Residents can sign up for air quality text alerts for specific monitors to know when air quality from wildfire smoke is spreading close to home. 
  2. Stay Indoors: Keep windows and doors closed to prevent smoke from entering your home. Use air purifiers with HEPA filters if possible. Learn more about how to improve indoor air quality here.
  3. Limit Outdoor Activities: Avoid strenuous outdoor activities, especially exercise, when air quality is poor. 
  4. Use Masks: N95 respirator masks can help filter out smoke particles if you must be outdoors. Cloth masks do not provide adequate protection from wildfire smoke.
  5. Create Clean Air Spaces: Designate a room with an air purifier as a clean air shelter within your home.

Get more information on how to stay safe from poor air quality here.

Darren Riley
June 25, 2024
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