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  • Wildfire Smoke and Your Health

    Protect Yourself from Wildfire Smoke

    Dry conditions increase the potential for wildfires in our region. Be aware when wildfire warnings are issued and take action to protect yourself and loved ones from wildfire smoke.

    The AirNow team created an easy-to-use wildfire page featuring tips on preparing for wildfires, reducing smoke exposure, and what to do after a fire.

    The U.S. EPA created some short videos in English and Spanish to share information on protecting children from wildfire smoke, knowing where else you can go (besides this PDEQ website) for air quality information, and understanding the Air Quality Index. See additional resources for staying safe from COVID-19 during wildfires and other emergencies

    The Arizona Department of Environmental Quality also provides a Wildfire Smoke Forecast website.
    When wildfires burn close to where we live, the smoke may reach your neighborhood. Since Pima County Department of Environmental Quality (PDEQ) has a limited number of air quality monitoring sites, you may need to rely on your senses of sight and smell to determine if it is safe to stay where you are.
    Wildfire Smoke Over Tucson
    Wildfire smoke is a mixture of gases and fine particles from burning plants and other items. This smoke can irritate your eyes and respiratory system and worsen chronic heart and lung diseases.

    Who is at greatest risk from wildfire smoke?

    • People who are susceptible to or affected by COVID-19 may have health conditions that also make them vulnerable to wildfire smoke exposure. The USDA provides a Wildfire Smoke and COVID-19 fact sheet
    • People who have heart or lung diseases
    • Adults over the age of 65 
    • Children because their lungs are still developing, they breathe more air per pound of body weight than adults and spend more time being active outside.

    What can you do to decrease your risk from wildfire smoke?

    • Check local air quality on-line at PDEQ or on the news. Pay attention to public health or emergency management messages about safety measures.
    • Use visibility guidelines to help determine if there are high levels of particulates in the air. 
    • Keep indoor air as clean as possible if you are advised to stay indoors. Keep windows and doors closed. 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 in a designated evacuation center or away from the affected area. 
    • Avoid activities that increase indoor air pollution. Burning candles, fireplaces, cigarettes, cigars, gas stoves can increase indoor pollution. Vacuuming stirs up particles that are already inside your home, adding to indoor air pollution.Aspen Fire Mt. Lemmon
    • Prevent wildfires from starting in the first place. Prepare, build, maintainand extinguish campfires safely, Properly dispose of cigarette butts, as opposed to throwing them on the ground. If you plan to burn vegetation on your property, check with your local fire department or PDEQ to see if you need an open burning permit and to learn about restrictions and safety guidelines. 
    • Follow the advice of your doctor or healthcare provider about medicines and about your respiratory managment plan if you have asthma or another lung disease. Consider evacuating if you are having trouble breathing. Call your health care provider for advice if your symptoms worsen.
    • Do not rely on dust masks for protection. Paper "comfort" or "dust" masks commonly found at hardware stores are designed to trap large particles, such as sawdust. These masks will not protect your lungs from the small particles found in wildfire smoke. Check with your health care provider to see if a respirator is recommended for use.
    • Evacuate from the path of wildfires. Listen to the news to learn current evacuation orders and follow the instructions provided by local officials. Sign up to receive emergency alerts at myalerts.pima.gov.
    • Protect yourself when cleaning up after a fire. Cleanup work can expose you to ash and other products of the fire that may irritate your eyes, nose or skin and cause coughing and other health effects. 
    Thanks to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for some of the above referenced information.
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    Department of Environmental Quality

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    Tucson, AZ 85701

    Phone: (520) 724-7400
    Fax: (520) 838-7432

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