Summer wildfire season has returned, and with it a new set of nightmare-ish forest fires consuming the North American West Coast and countries further abroad. In the communities between California to British Columbia, Washington to Montana, tens of thousands of people have been affected either by the fires directly or the resulting smoky air.
During this season, when forests are relatively hot and arid, wildfires easily ignite from cigarette butts and unattended campfires, and grow to burn everything in their path. In fact, 90% of wildfires are the result of preventable human activity.
Though counter intuitive, wet winters, like this last season’s in the United States, can also increase the risk of fire, as more new vegetation simply becomes more fuel for the flames.
Due to the potential size and magnitude of the fire, plumes of thick smoke can saturate the air with PM10 and PM2.5 particles as well as pieces of ash, causing a high risk for severe throat and eye irritations.
Top 10 recommendations for reducing your exposure to polluted air during a wildfire:
1. Seal your home: Close all windows and doors and seal any openings, such as vents and doggy-doors, to prevent polluted air from permeating inside.
2. Maximize time in clean air spaces: Stay indoors and reduce outdoor activity as much as possible.
3. Create a clean air safe haven: Make sure air conditioning units are set to indoor air intake. Run an air purifier.
4. Avoid sources of indoor air pollution: Refrain from vacuuming, burning candles or smoking inside.
5. Have a plan: Make sure your family knows where the fire extinguisher is and rehearse your family's evacuation plan. Prepare an emergency kit with personal identification documents, medicines, and money.
6. Tune in to news reports:Listen to local reports for wildfire advisories. See if your neighborhood has a nearby air quality monitoring station at airvisual.com/world, and follow its readings with the AirVisual app. Set threshold notifications to know when you are.
7. Stay attuned to outdoor air quality changes: Pay attention to visibility and use visibility guides to check your environment.
8. Wear a pollution mask: If exposed to smoke, wear a particulate matter mask (N95) and protective clothes to prevent burn.
9. Keep hydrated: Prevent dehydration, eye and throat irritations by drinking water.
10. Stay connected: Keep mobile phone and two-way radios to communicate in case of emergency.