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Air Quality Newsletter Air Quality Newsletter
Wildland Fire and Air Quality
Smoke from wildland fire is a significant source of air pollution and can impact air quality in our community even if the fire is further away.
Anytime you see or smell smoke during a wildland fire, know that local air quality has been compromised.
Wildland Fire and Health
Smoke is made up of a complex mixture of gases and fine particles. The biggest health threat from smoke is from the fine particles, also called fine particulate matter or PM2.5. These microscopic particles can get into your eyes and respiratory system which can irritate the lungs and lead to a range of symptoms. Symptoms of smoke exposure include:
- Watering and irritated eyes
- Difficulty breathing
While smoke can impact anyone, sensitive populations such as children, pregnant women, the elderly, and those with asthma and other respiratory concerns are especially at risk during a smoke event.
How to prepare for smoke from Wildland Fire
The best way to know your potential risks due to smoke from wildland fires is to be aware of what the air quality is in your area. Check the Air Quality Index and pay attention to Air Quality Alerts in your area.
The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment provides Wildfire Smoke Health Advisories and Smoke Outlooks along with more information and resources concerning health risks from wildland fires.
What you can do to minimize impacts from smoke
In your home
- Close windows and doors
- If you have an air conditioning (AC) unit, set it to recirculate
- Minimize exposure to other indoor air pollutants:
- Don’t vacuum during a smoke event
- Limit stove-top cooking
- Once the smoke has dissipated, open windows to ventilate home
- If you do not have AC, designate one room in your home to be a clean air room. Learn how to create a Clean Air room.
- Learn more about Indoor Air Quality and Wildfires
In your car
- Close windows
- Run AC in recirculation mode
- Change air filters every 20,000-30,000 miles
- Do your best not to drive in smoky conditions
Frequently Asked Questions
- Should I use a mask or respirator during a smoke event?
A mask or respirator may help to reduce exposure during a smoke event. It is important to learn how to protect your lungs from wildfire smoke or ash.
Here are some other considerations:
- Do not rely on dust masks or bandanas during a smoke event. These are not effective in reducing fine particles that you are breathing in
- If you feel the need to use a mask during a smoke event, consider N95or P100 Respirators
- Even with a mask during a smoke event, it is a good idea to limit activities outside
- When should I limit my outdoor activities?
While it is an individuals’ choice on when to limit activities, once air quality values approach moderately high, you may be affected and should consider limiting your activities. Learn more about the Air Quality Index levels of health concern.
- If there is a fire close by should I consider evacuating?
There are various factors that can contribute to the decision to evacuate your home if a wildland fire is near.
Sign up for LETA 911 to be aware of evacuation alerts in your area.
For additional information, visit the following websites:
- Front Range air quality forecast from Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment
- Nationwide air quality conditions and forecasts from AirNow.gov
- Active fire maps from USDA Forest Service
- InciWeb, up-to-date information about specific wildland fires
- Learn more about how to protect yourself from smoke impacts