Text Equivalent of Breathe Easy: Protect Yourself from Wildland Fire Smoke

[Photo of a fire along a mountain ridge producing copious amounts of smoke.]

Did you know that wildfires are on the rise nationally, and that wildland fire smoke is harmful to your health?

If you have heart or lung disease, you are at higher risk from smoke exposure. Young children and the elderly are especially at risk from smoke exposure.

Know your air quality index, or A.Q.I.

The A.Q.I. is an index for reporting daily air quality. It tells you how clean or polluted your air is and what associated health effects might be a concern for you.

  • An A.Q.I. of 301 to 500 is hazardous. Everyone should avoid outdoor activities and reduce exposure to smoke even when indoors.
  • An A.Q.I. of 201 to 300 is very unhealthy. Avoid outdoor activities. If you must be outdoors, protect yourself.
  • An A.Q.I. of 151 to 200 is unhealthy. Everyone may experience adverse effects from smoke exposure. Protect yourself when you’re outdoors.
  • An A.Q.I. of 101 to 150 is unhealthy for sensitive groups. Anyone with heart and lung disease may experience health effects from smoke exposure. Older adults and children should avoid exposure.
  • An A.Q.I. of 51 to 100 is moderate. If you are sensitive to air pollution you may experience health effects from exposure.
  • An A.Q.I. of 0 to 50 is good. Go enjoy the outdoors.

Resource: https://www.airnow.gov/

To find your A.Q.I. go to https://www.airnow.gov/ and enter your zip code.

Know your daily smoke forecast

[Illustration of Montana as an example of how AQI Daily Smoke Forecast might look on AirNow’s website.]

Find your smoke forecast:

  • AirNow current Air Quality Index (EPA): https://fire.airnow.gov/.
  • Look for local forecasts from a state agency like a Department of Environmental Quality or a Department of Health.

Protecting yourself from smoke while outdoors

[Illustration of an N95 mask, with text that says, “Look for the N95 label.”]

  • Purchase an N95 certified respirator
  • Do not use a dust or surgical mask.
  • Get fit tested for proper fit

[Illustration of the side view of a man’s head. He is wearing an N95 respirator over his nose and mouth, and one strap goes to the upper back of his neck while the other strap goes to the top back part of his head. The text says, “Pull straps to eliminate gaps.”]

[Illustration of the front of a man’s face. He is wearing an N95 respirator over his nose and mouth. The text says, “squeeze metal nose clamp.”]

Protecting yourself from smoke while indoors

[Illustration of a cutaway of a house, with sections of the house numbered one through four to correspond to the information below.]

  1. Purchase a HEPA-certified portable air cleaner for your bedroom. Avoid electrostatic air cleaners.
  2. Install a high-efficiency filter in your home furnace/ac and run the unit continuously, i.e., “fan on” mode. The filter should have a MERV rating of 13 or higher.
  3. Replace your home air filters every month during fire season, especially if they are running continuously.
  4. Keep your windows closed. Use air conditioning or room fans to stay cool.

This information was gathered by Colorado State University in collaboration with High Plains Intermountain Center for Agriculture Health and Safety; Partnership for Air Quality, Climate, and Health; School of Global Environmental Sustainability; The Mountain and Plains Education and Research Center; and Montana State University Extension Forestry.

[Logo: Colorado State University: illustration of a ram’s head inside a circle.]

[Logo: Zero with a slash through it, and the words, “Public Domain 2019.”]