• Joe Xie

Wildfire Smoke and Outdoor Activities

Our great state of California is, once again, on fire.


Fire smoke may contain various components that can damage your health, such as trace heavy metals (e.g, arsenic and cadmium), formaldehyde, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxide, black carbon, and general particulate matter from ultrafine size range (0.1 microns or below) to PM2.5 (2.5 microns; 1/30th the diameter of human hair), to PM10, (10 microns). Some of the mentioned materials are considered carcinogens.


Please check the air quality around your home and places of work. You can also check the progress of the fires at Cal Fire. Depending on how severe the wildfire air pollution is, you may have to severely curtail your outdoor activities. This is especially true for populations with health vulnerabilities, such as pregnant women, children, seniors, and those with chronic health conditions such as COPD and asthma. You should limit outdoor activities of your cherished pets as well. Please see below infographic from the Yolo-Solano Air Quality Management District:

For essential workers that must work outdoors (including fire fighters who are bravely battling the fires as we speak, please consider donating to the Cal Fire Foundation as a pilot battling the wildfires has already sadly lost his life during a crash), respiratory protection will be necessary. These may include respirators that are N95 rated or above, or half face and full face masks with P100 cartridges. Fire fighters will be wearing Self-Contained Breathing Apparatuses (SCBAs) as necessary.


If you elect to stay mostly indoors at home, please check the condition of your air conditioning filter; if they have not been replaced within the previous year, new ones may be needed. Check the make and model of your AC unit and you can easily find replacement filters from online retailers. It is advisable to not turn your AC below 78 degrees F as the state is still experiencing power generation and distribution issues. Keep windows and doors shut to limit smoke particles from entering your residence. If you do not have AC in your homes, check with your local jurisdiction as many cities have opened cooling centers (please be mindful that social distancing and mask use may be required due to COVID-19).


For workplaces, some of the above same recommendations apply. Keep windows and doors closed and check the HVAC filters. Activated carbon filters may be helpful in eliminating fire odor entrainment into commercial buildings. Please keep in mind that the pandemic is still raging thus limiting re-circulation of the HVAC system is still recommended. Face coverings to limit the spread of SARS-CoV-2 must still be enforced.


If your place of business would like an evaluation on occupant comfort and indoor air quality issues, please reach out to us.