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When wildfires burn in the Pacific Northwest, smoke can drift into the Seattle area and linger there.

“We’re kind of in a mountainous region with the Puget Sound kind of carving right between the Olympics and the Cascades, which makes a perfect zone for wildfire smoke to collect and stagnate,” says Addison Houston of Seattle and King County’s public health department.

He says that when the smoky air accumulates, it can be dangerous, especially for people with preexisting conditions.

“With wildfire smoke, really it’s the small particles that are suspended in the air that impact people’s breathing, their respiratory, cardiovascular systems,” Houston says.

So he encourages people to protect their health by filtering their indoor air using devices such as portable HEPA air filtration units.

To help make sure low-income residents can do so, his agency has distributed free kits that include a box fan and other materials people can use to build their own air filters.

And it’s partnered with local organizations to make sure people have information about the dangers of wildfire smoke and low-cost options for air filtration — to help them stay safe as climate change makes wildfires more extreme.

Reporting credit: ChavoBart Digital Media