Wildfire Safety Tips for Your Health

Grandview and Darlene Fires near Bend, Oregon

While wildfires have their place in nature, these events can be catastrophic for the people who stand in their paths. As an Oregon resident, knowing your risks and how to be proactive about preventing the wildfire situation are both important. Let’s take a look at some wildfire safety tips to protect your health, as well as a few tips for wildfire prevention.  

1. Keep tabs on air quality in your area 

The Air Quality Index (AQI) is available through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency online. Check in periodically to see how the air quality is in your area. The index can change by the day, or even by the hour, according to the proximity of wildfires and wind direction. By knowing the AQI in your area, you are better equipped to protect your home and yourself and adjust your plans accordingly. 

2. Protect indoor air quality as much as possible 

Being indoors can be enough to protect you from the smoke in some cases, but with a few caveats:

  • Keep doors and windows closed as much as possible 
  • Run the AC, but make sure fresh-air intakes are shut off 
  • Change the filter on your AC frequently 

You can also choose to close off one room in your home; one with as few doors and windows as possible is for the best. Run an indoor air purifier or filtration system to keep the air within the space as clean as possible. 

3. Avoid unnecessary outdoor time 

Try to reduce your time spent outdoors when smoke is especially bad in your area. If you’re too hot inside the house, make a plan to seek shelter elsewhere instead of opening windows or hanging outside. 

4. Follow local guidance about evacuation 

During wildfire season, local officials may determine that certain areas should be evacuated for safety. Stay tuned to what local officials are saying via the radio, local news, or text alerts. If you learn about evacuation orders, follow the guidance about what route to take to safety and where you should go. Act quickly, and take only necessities when you have to leave. 

5. Talk to your doctor 

According to the National Center for Environmental Health, certain individuals are most at risk when it comes to exposure to wildfire smoke. People most at risk include:

  • Those with heart disease or lung disease
  • Older adults and children 
  • Pregnant women 

You do still face risks if you do not fall into one of these three groups. If you feel like poor air quality is affecting you, talk to your doctor and follow their advice about protecting yourself. 

Wildfire Prevention Tips to Remember 

Protecting yourself is an important facet of wildfire safety, but so is doing what you can to prevent making the problem worse. Fires sparked during wildfire season can contribute to an already large issue. A few pointers to remember: 

  1. Avoid activities that could spark a fire – Fireworks, certain heating tools, and even an ill-maintained vehicle could radiate sparks 
  2. Watch out where you park your vehicle – The tailpipe of a vehicle can be hot enough to ignite dry grasses 
  3. Be careful about smoking – Dispose of butts and lit matches in a cup of water and always keep lighters and matches in a safe place
  4. Monitor any and all burning activities – Don’t burn anything on windy days, stay with your fire, and smother with water or dirt when you’re done
  5. Be a good neighbor – Keep an eye on burning activity around you, report fire activity immediately, and don’t do anything that could put your neighbors at risk 

In 2020, the state of Oregon and several other parts of the country had one of the most severe wildfire seasons in history. In Oregon alone, more than 1.2 million acres burned, over 3,000 buildings were destroyed, and at least 11 people lost their lives. During this wildfire season, do what you can to protect your health and the people around you. 

Sources:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2020_Oregon_wildfires

https://www.cdc.gov/nceh/features/wildfires/index.html

https://www.airnow.gov/aqi/

https://www.cdc.gov/disasters/wildfires/duringfire.html

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