Yesterday was officially the first day of summer! This means nice warm weather, but also possible wildfires. Wildfires are unplanned fires that burn in natural areas like forests, grasslands, or prairies. These dangerous fires spread quickly and devastate not only wildlife and natural areas, but also communities.
Wildfire smoke is a major threat to public health. Smoke from wildfires can cause wheezing, coughing, heart and lung disease, and even death. Wildfire smoke is also the largest source of particle pollution in Washington.
Here are some ways that you and your family can prepare for and stay safe during a wildfire. Below you will also find information about what to do following the aftermath of a wildfire in your community.
Prepare for Wildfires
- Have several ways to receive alerts so you don’t miss anything important. Sign up for community alerts in your area and be aware of the Emergency Alert System and Wireless Emergency Alert. Also sign up for CodeRED or download the FEMA app and receive alerts from the National Weather Service.
- Look out for air quality alerts. To check your air quality visit AirNow.gov
- Make an emergency plan. Make sure everyone in the household knows what to do if you need to evacuate quickly.
- Know your evacuation zone.
- Have a communications plan, and make sure everyone in your household knows it.
- Have an emergency go bag ready for you, household members and pets. For a checklist visit Build A Kit | Ready.gov
- Review important documents. Make sure your insurance policies and personal documents are up to date. Create copies and keep them in your go bag!
Stay Safe During a Wildfire
- Evacuate as soon as authorities tell you to.
- Pay attention to emergency alerts for information.
- Call 911 if you’re trapped and give your location.
- Use an N95 mask to protect you from smoke inhalation.
Returning Home After a Wildfire
- Do not return home until authorities say it is safe to do so.
- Look out for hot ash, charred trees, smoldering debris, and live embers.
- Wear protective clothing when doing any cleaning.
- Document property damage with photographs.
- Reach out to family to check if they are OK or to let them know you are.
The Northwest Clean Air Agency (NWCAA) offers resources on how to protect yourself and others during wildfire smoke events. See their website’s Wildfire Smoke Information page: https://bit.ly/3wgdcEM. For NWCAA monitors and related air quality information: https://bit.ly/3lXahMq.
For information on low-cost air sensors and a map showing local sensors: https://bit.ly/3iWcwxM.
May 2 2022: Wildfires and Smoke | AirNow.gov
Wildfire smoke – Washington State Department of Ecology
Smoke From Wildfires – Toolkit | Washington State Department of Health