Wildfires typically occur during the warmer, drier summer months. As climate change progresses, 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 that are pregnant, have heart or lung diseases (such as asthma or COPD), respiratory infections, diabetes, stroke survivors, and those suffering from COVID-19.
Both COVID-19 and wildfire smoke affect the respiratory and cardiovascular systems and increase health risks, especially for sensitive populations.
Although it is hard to predict if we will get wildfire smoke this year, you can still be prepared ahead of time particularly during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
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 is not be the best time for activities outdoors. Use your best judgement.
- Check the air quality forecast regularly on our home page or by checking the air pollution monitor closest to you.
- To limit your time outdoors, stock up on necessities like food, medications, and other items you may need for your family.
- If your air cleaner or HVAC system is designed to accommodate a high-efficiency HEPA filter, installing one and running the system during a smoke event 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 a portable air cleaner or filter fan to make the room even cleaner. Find out more here.
- If you have an air conditioner, use it in recirculation mode or close the fresh air intake to keep smoky air out of your home.
- Masks with the label “N95” or “N100” are the most effective type of mask that protects you from air pollution, but due to ongoing COVID-19 response we need to reserve those for health care and other frontline workers for now. While cloth face coverings are recommended to reduce the spread of COVID-19, they offer limited protection from air pollution and wildfire smoke and must be properly worn. Any mask or face covering should be used only as a last resort to protect against wildfire smoke. More information on COVID-19 mask do’s and don’ts can be found here.