Smoke Ready California
For the latest information on air quality and smoke near you:• Download California Smoke Spotter.• Visit U.S. EPA’s AirNow Fire and Smoke Map. • Check with your air district for local information.
Wildfires produce a range of harmful air pollutants, from cancer-causing substances to tiny particles that can aggravate existing health problems and increase the risk of heart attack or stroke. Particulate matter (PM) is the main pollutant of concern from wildfire smoke for relatively short-term exposures (hours to weeks). Particles from smoke can be very small (with diameters of 2.5 micrometers and smaller). They are small enough to get deep into the lungs and the tiniest, ultrafine particles can pass directly into the bloodstream. The association between PM2.5 and heart and lung health effects is well documented in scientific literature.
Larger, more frequent and intense wildfires are a growing public health problem, contributing to reduced air quality for people living near or downwind of fire. Smoke can travel hundreds of miles, so you can be impacted even if you’re not near an active fire. Health problems related to wildfire smoke exposure can be as mild as eye and respiratory tract irritation and as serious as worsening of heart and lung disease, including asthma, and even premature death.
People who must be outdoors for long periods of time, in areas with heavy smoke, or where ash is disturbed, may want to wear a NIOSH-certified N95 respirator mask. Those with existing respiratory, lung or heart conditions should limit their exposure by staying indoors. Since wearing a respirator can make it harder to breathe, those with lung or heart conditions should check with their doctor before using one.
If you purchase N95 masks, make sure they are NIOSH-approved. Choose a size and model that fits your face and has no gaps. Test it by doing a seal check.
Some respirator masks are designed and tested to meet international standards, rather than U.S. standards (NIOSH certification). KN95 respirators are the most widely available masks that meet an international standard.
If you choose to use a KN95 mask, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) recommends using one that has been tested by NIOSH and has a minimum "filtration efficiency" of 95% or higher. However, it is important to know that while some KN95 models have been tested by NIOSH, they are not designed or approved in accordance with NIOSH standards.
Almost all KN95s have ear loops, which provide a less-snug fit than respirators with head straps (such as N95s), so it can be difficult to create the seal needed to adequately filter smoke particles.
*In the event of a Flex Alert – a call for consumers to voluntarily conserve electricity when there is a predicted shortage of energy supply, often during heat waves which coincide with wildfire season – follow all guidance from California ISO.
Use these tips to create a Cleaner Air Space within your home. By focusing on one room or area, cleaning the air becomes more manageable and everyone has a safe place to be during periods of intense wildfire smoke.
If you don’t have central air or a portable air cleaner to reduce smoke inside your home, another alternative is a do-it-yourself (DIY) air cleaner. These are made with a box fan and MERV 13 air filters.
The graphic above shows three popular designs for DIY air cleaners. U.S. EPA researchers tested these designs and found all three are effective at reducing smoke particles. While the cost, supplies and construction of each design are different, there are some important things to keep in mind for all designs:
While all three models represented here will clean the air in your home, EPA’s research shows that models with more filters are more effective at removing smoke particles from the air.
*Prices obtained for U.S. EPA research from national retailers in April 2022; filter unit price derived from a pack of six filters (See study Section 3.2, Table 2)
If cleaning the air inside your home is not possible, contact your local Air Pollution Control District or local officials to see if a designated Clean Air Center is open in your community. This could be a recreation center, library, school gymnasium, or other indoor facility equipped with proper ventilation and air conditioning that is open to the public during smoke events.
It’s easy to forget about smoke when evacuating from wildfires. There are several easy ways to protect yourself when traveling to an area with better air quality.
Prepare for smoke near you
Plan - Know - ActAlways follow evacuation orders.