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Wildfire Season is Here! Are you Smoke Ready?

Over the past two months, the Valley Regional Fire Authority has provided the community with tips on how to prepare your home to reduce the risk of damage from brush and wildfires through their Wildland Urban Interface (WUI) Home Project of the Week campaign. Now that your home is ready, it’s time to get Smoke Ready!

In 2018 Western Washington saw 24 days of poor air quality due to wildfire smoke. Nine of those days were either unhealthy for sensitive groups or unhealthy for everyone. Local air quality can change from day to day or even hour to hour.

Puget Sound Clean Air Agency Tips to be Smoke Ready:

Wildfire Smoke and Its Dangers

Wildfires typically occur during the warmer, drier summer months. As climate change worsens, we expect more wildfires and potentially more wildfire smoke making its way to the Puget Sound region.

Wildfire smoke carries the same health risks as wood smoke, except there’s much more of it. Smoke is full of small particles, which can be especially dangerous for sensitive groups — children and older adults and people that are pregnant, have heart or lung issues (such as asthma and COPD), or that have had a stroke.

Although it is hard to predict if we will get wildfire smoke this year, you can still be prepared ahead of time.

Be Prepared for Wildfire Smoke:
  • Check with your doctor or medical professional in advance to create a plan for your family before wildfire smoke impacts our air quality.
  • When the air looks and smells smoky, it may not be the best time for activities outdoors. Use your best judgment.
  • Check the air quality forecast regularly by using either the activity tracker on our home page or by checking the air pollution monitor closest to you.

If you can’t stay cool at home or are especially sensitive to smoke, it may be best to seek shelter elsewhere.

  • Stay with friends or family who are not affected by the smoke.
  • Seek relief from the smoke in a large commercial building with air conditioning and good air filtration, like a “cooling center” (more information below).
At Home:
  • To limit your time outdoors, stock up on necessities like food, medications, and other items you may need for your family.
  • A high-efficiency HEPA filter used in your air cleaner or HVAC  system can help keep your indoor air clean.
  • You can also make a filter fan to help clean your indoor air. All you need is a box fan, furnace filter (MERV-13 or better), and a bungee cord or tape. Step-by-step instructions here.
  • Designate a room in your home to be a “clean room.” This room should have as few windows or doors as possible, or they should be closed, to keep smoke out. Use an indoor air cleaner or filter fan to make the room even cleaner. Find out more here.
  • If you have an air conditioner, close the fresh air intake if available so you can keep smoky air out of your home.
In the Community:

Know where the nearest “cooling center” is located. Cooling centers, like libraries or community centers, can be a good place to avoid smoky air. Visit WA Information Network 211 and search by your area for possible locations.

Other Options:

N95 or N100 rated masks can help protect you from air pollution, but aren’t useful for everyone. They should only be used as a last resort. Please check with your doctor to see if this appropriate for you. More information here.


This information is from VRFA and The Puget Sound Clean Air Agency.  The Auburn Examiner has not independently verified it.

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