Wildfires typically occur during the warmer, drier summer months. As climate change worsens, we expect more wildfires and potentially more wildfire smoke making its way to the Puget Sound region.
Wildfire smoke carries the same health risks as wood smoke, except there can be a lot more of it. Smoke is full of small particles, which can be especially dangerous for sensitive groups — infants, children, and people over 65, or those who are pregnant, have heart or lung diseases (such as asthma or COPD), respiratory infections, diabetes, stroke survivors, or are suffering from COVID-19.
Both COVID-19 and wildfire smoke affect the respiratory and cardiovascular systems and increase health risks, especially for sensitive populations.
Please follow the guidelines from your local health or state health department regarding current restrictions and facial covering guidelines. The following recommendations are based on current guidelines to the best of our knowledge.
Although it is hard to predict if we will get wildfire smoke this year, you can still be prepared ahead of time.
Be Prepared for Wildfire Smoke:
- Check with your doctor or medical professional in advance to create a plan for your family before wildfire smoke impacts our air quality.
- When the air looks and smells smoky, it may not be the best time for activities outdoors. Use your best judgement.
- Check the air quality forecast regularly by using either the activity tracker on our home page or by checking the air pollution monitor closest to you.
If you can’t stay cool at home or are especially sensitive to smoke, it may be best to seek shelter elsewhere.
- Stay with friends or family who are not affected by the smoke.
- Seek relief from the smoke in a large commercial building with air conditioning and good air filtration, like a "cooling center" (more information below).
- To limit your time outdoors, stock up on necessities like food, medications, and other items you may need for your family.
- A high-efficiency HEPA filter used in your air cleaner or HVAC system can help keep your indoor air clean.
- You can also make a filter fan to help clean your indoor air. All you need is a box fan, furnace filter (MERV-13 or better), and a bungee cord or tape. Step-by-step instructions here.
- Designate a room in your home to be a “clean room.” This room should have as few windows or doors as possible, or they should be closed, to keep smoke out. Use an indoor air cleaner or filter fan to make the room even cleaner. Find out more here.
- If you have an air conditioner, close the fresh air intake if available so you can keep smoky air out of your home.
In the Community:
- Know where the nearest “cooling center” is located. Cooling centers, like libraries or community centers, can be a good place to avoid smoky air.
- Masks with the label “N95” or “N100” are the most effective type of mask that protects you from air pollution. You may now find smaller quantities at your local hardware store, but be mindful not to purchase too many. Any mask or face covering should be used only as a last resort to protect against wildfire smoke. Please check with your doctor to see if this appropriate for you. More information here.
- Cloth face coverings are recommended to reduce the spread of COVID-19 for those who are not fully vaccinated or are in crowded indoor spaces, but they offer limited protection from air pollution and wildfire smoke.