Wildfire smoke can travel hundreds of miles beyond the flames. And breathing it is dangerous, particularly for people with heart conditions or lung diseases such as asthma.
So it’s important for vulnerable people to avoid smoky air. But sometimes that’s easier said than done because smoke particles can seep indoors, especially in leaky houses without air conditioning. When a fire causes a lot of smoke, after a couple days, often the indoor air quality is not much better than the outdoor air quality.
That’s according to Sally Maguet, a consultant who works with the British Columbia Center for Disease Control. She says some cities and towns are setting up so-called clean-air shelters.
“Like a rec center or an arena or a school or something like that,” she says. “Community spaces that are available for people to go and have some respite from smoky conditions.”
For example, Seattle has announced a plan to equip five buildings – including community centers and event spaces – with strong air filtration systems.
As the climate changes, intense wildfires are growing more common. So Maguet says it’s important to educate people about the health impacts of wildfire smoke and find ways to protect them.
Reporting credit: Sarah Kennedy/ChavoBart Digital Media.