Wildfire Smoke

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California Department of Public Health (CDPH) Director and State Public Health Officer Dr. Karen Smith advised residents where wildfires have been burning, along with people in the smoke’s path, to stay indoors and reduce outdoor activity.

 Picture of smoke billowing from hillside at North Fork, with NF Fire department building in forefront
Smoke from the 2014 Willow Fire, Madera County near North Fork

  “Smoke from wildfires can cause eye and lung irritation. Breathing smoke can also make asthma symptoms worse. People with underlying lung or heart problems should limit their exposure by staying indoors,” said Dr. Smith.

“Heavy smoke exposure can also cause more serious disorders, including reduced lung function and bronchitis.”

Exposure to airborne ash may trigger asthmatic attacks in people who already have the respiratory condition. Residents should seek medical care if they experience health issues such as chest pain, chest tightness or shortness of breath. It is especially important to monitor children and young adults as they may be more susceptible to the health and emotional effects of fire recovery,” said Dr. Smith.

Protect Yourself:

  • Pay attention to local air quality reports. Listen and watch for news or health warnings about smoke.
  • If you are advised to stay indoors, keep indoor air as clean as possible. Keep windows and doors closed unless it is extremely hot outside. Run an air conditioner if you have one, but keep the fresh-air intake closed and the filter clean to prevent outdoor smoke from getting inside. If you do not have an air conditioner and it is too warm to stay inside with the windows closed, seek shelter elsewhere.
  • Use a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter to reduce breathing problems. Room air cleaners, which utilize a HEPA filter, may reduce the number of irritating fine particles in indoor air.
  • Do not add to indoor pollution. When smoke levels are high, do not use anything that burns, such as candles, fireplaces or gas stoves. Do not vacuum because it stirs up particles already inside your home. Do not smoke because smoking puts even more pollution into the air.

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