Often people are injured and die from a fire's smoke and not the fire itself. Help minimize your risk and expose to smoke, which can hurt your eyes, irritate your respiratory system, and worsen chronic heart and lung diseases. Know whether you are at risk and protect yourself.
Limit your exposure to smoke. Following are ways to protect your health:
Pay attention to local air quality reports. Listen and watch for news or health warnings about smoke. Find out if your community provides reports about the Environmental Protection Agency's Air Quality Index (AQI). Also pay attention to public health messages about taking additional safety measures.
If you are advised to stay indoors, keep indoor air as clean as possible. Keep windows and doors closed unless it is extremely hot outside. 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 elsewhere.
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 smoke.
If you are told to evacuate, do so immediately!
- Wear long sleeves and long pants -- cotton or woolen clothing. Natural fibers don't burn as easily as synthetics.
- Wear sturdy shoes or boots -- nothing with an open toe.
- Tie a handkerchief around your neck and use it to protect your face in smoky conditions.
- Take your emergency supplies kit (see above).
- Lock your home.
- Tell someone when you left and where you are going.
- Choose a route away from fire hazards. Watch for changes in the speed and direction of fire and smoke.
If There's Time
If you have not yet been told to evacuate and are sure you have time, take these steps to protect your home. Take these steps only after you are fully prepared to evacuate.
Inside the house:
- Close all windows, vents, doors, blinds, or noncombustible window coverings and heavy drapes. Remove flammable, lightweight curtains.
- Shut off all utilities if possible, including bottled gas.
- Open fireplace damper and close fireplace screens.
- Move flammable furniture into the center of the home away from windows and sliding glass doors.
- Turn on a battery-powered light in each room to increase the visibility of your home as smoke gets thicker.
It's always wise to check on the latest fire situation before embarking on a wilderness trip. These resources will keep you informed of current wildfire activity in Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Washington, and other Western states.
- National Fire News
A listing of all the major wildfires in the U.S., including description, number of acres, and containment.
- National Interagency Coordination Center
Get current and archived reports with detailed fire status - updated daily.
- New West Wildland Fire News
Get the latest wildfire news for the Rocky Mountain states, including Idaho and Montana.
- Idaho Fire Updates
Current news, links to local and regional wildfire resources, and fire-related stories.
- Montana Current Fire Conditions
Access of map of current fires, restrictions and closures information, and other regional wildfire resources.
- Oregon Department of Forestry:Fire in the Forest
Daily update that provides news about fire locations, community involvement, and containment forecasts.
- Washington DNR Fire Information
Information about fire news, maps, and responding agencies.