Be Prepared for Wildfire Smoke
Wildfire season, air quality and health precautions
SPOKANE, Wash.,-- Continued dry weather and wildfires in the region will impact air quality this summer, therefore officials from Spokane Regional Clean Air Agency (Spokane Clean Air) and partners want residents to be prepared for wildfire season.
“Wildfire smoke has the potential to significantly impact our air quality, as we’ve seen over the last few summers. It’s especially important that those with health conditions like asthma, COPD, heart and lung conditions have a plan in place with their health care provider before the start of wildfire season,” said Julie Oliver, executive director of Spokane Clean Air.
Smoke is a mix of gases and fine particles. The severity of the smoke impact depends on weather patterns. If the air isn’t moving, the concentration of fine particles increases. Breathing smoke can make anyone sick. Even someone who is healthy can get sick if there is enough smoke in the air. Children are more susceptible to smoke because their respiratory systems are still developing, they breathe more air (and air pollution) per pound of body weight than adults, and they’re more likely to be active outdoors.
Breathing in smoke can have immediate health effects, including:
Coughing, Trouble breathing normally
Stinging eyes, scratchy throat
Runny nose, Irritated sinuses
Wheezing and shortness of breath
Fast heart beat
Chest pain, heart attack
Individuals should know where to get information about air quality and steps they can take to protect themselves and loved ones. Air quality levels are updated hourly and posted online at SpokaneCleanAir.org using measurements from across Spokane County. The Air Quality Index (AQI) uses color-coded categories to report when air quality is good, moderate or unhealthy. Additionally, when smoke particles are expected to reach an unhealthy level, local news media are notified, as well as individuals and organizations who subscribe to EnviroFlash air quality alerts.
It’s important that individuals limit their exposure to smoke – especially if they are susceptible. Here are some steps people can take to protect themselves from smoke:
- Use common sense. If it looks and smells smoky outside, it is probably not a good time to go for a jog, mow the lawn or allow children to play outdoors. A helpful reference guide, Air Pollution and Outdoor Activities/Events, is available online.
- Individuals with asthma or other respiratory or lung conditions should follow their provider’s directions on taking medicines. They should call their provider if symptoms worsen.
- If a person has heart or lung disease, is an older adult, or has children, they should talk with their provider about whether and when they should leave the area. When smoke is heavy for a prolonged period of time, fine particles can build up indoors even though a person may not see them.
- Some room air cleaners can help reduce particulate levels indoors, as long as they are the right type and size for your home.
- Respiratory masks labeled N95 or N100 provide limited protection – they filter out some fine particles but not hazardous gases in smoke (such as carbon monoxide, formaldehyde, and acrolein.) This type of mask can be found at many hardware and home repair stores and pharmacies.
For more information: