Smoke from fires can put public health at risk but there are steps that individuals and communities can take to be prepared. This page is a compilation of information on how to be smoke ready and is intended for use by land management, public health, and environmental agencies; incident management teams and emergency responders; local governments, non-governmental organizations, and the general public.
Smoke Ready Overview
Breathing wildfire smoke can have serious consequences for human health. Exposure to smoke from wildfire is known to affect lung health and has been associated with respiratory infections (influenza, bronchitis, and pneumonia), and increased risk of mortality (a recent EPA study estimated annual mortality in the US due to exposure to smoke of 1500-2500 people). Every community, no matter the size, has someone who is potentially at risk from breathing smoke. Those who are especially vulnerable include people with underlying conditions such as heart or lung disease, asthma, diabetes, pregnancy, young children, and older adults. Individuals with COVID-19, or recovering from COVID-19, are also at greater risk from smoke.
Being smoke ready means that communities and individuals have the knowledge and ability to stay reasonably safe and healthy during smoke episodes. Some approaches individuals can take include creating a “clean room” at home, purchasing an air filter, knowing how to determine current air quality, minimizing indoor sources of air pollution, and limiting time outdoors when it’s smoky. Communities can take action to be smoke ready by creating clean air shelters, educating residents to understand the health risks of smoke and how to access decision tools, and having resources on hand to help vulnerable and under-served residents.
Handouts or Postings to use for public outreach
One page summary of No Cost and Low Cost approaches for people to be smoke ready including a 1 page table of AQI and protective actions.
Fact Sheets from EPA (most are 2 pages).
The Montana Wildfire Smoke page has an excellent compilation of specific smoke ready approaches that are useful in areas beyond Montana.
See their DIY Fan/Filter page for instructions and video on building an air cleaner using a box fan, including excellent safety recommendations and results from their own testing.
See their HEPA Portable Air Cleaners page for information and video on purchasing and using a portable air cleaner.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was an early leader in smoke ready concepts and has extensive information at their Smoke-Ready Toolbox for Wildfires page.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) - Protect Yourself from Wildfire Smoke
Western States Pediatric Health Specialty Unit (PEHSU) Wildfires and Children's Health
More Smoke Ready Information and Success Stories
The Forest Stewards Guild's HEPA Filter Loan Program, New Mexico.
The Washington State Fire Adapted Communities Learning Network has developed a nice Smoke Ready Toolkit that includes a sample agenda, presentation template and talking points, and 3 videos to help jumpstart efforts at the local community level to encourage smoke readiness. All content is available in English and Spanish.
Smokewise Ashland is a local collaborative working group in southwest Oregon dedicated to protecting public health and creating economic resiliency in the face of increasing summer wildfire smoke and the overwhelming need to reduce community wildfire risk through proactive, safely conducted controlled burning.
Watch a Webinar called Resident HEPA Filter Programs: Community Solutions for Creating Clean Air by the National Cohesive Wildland Fire Management Strategy Fire Adapted Communities Learning Network.
The success of the Wildland Fire Air Quality Response Program depends on contributions from numerous interagency partners. The current pool of trained ARAs includes staff from various federal agencies (including the U.S. Forest Service, National Park Service, Environmental Protection Agency, National Resource Conservation Service, Bureau of Land Management, Fish and Wildlife Service among others) and state, tribal, and local governments as well as the private sector. The success and online presence of key smoke modeling tools would not be possible without the significant contributions by the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Smoke impact modeling is contributed by the U.S. Forest Service Pacific Northwest Research Station among others.
Information developed by the ARAs through the use of these systems is are routinely utilized by:
local and state public health agencies
air quality regulators
fire incident command teams
ARAs regularly disseminate information through the various state run Smoke Blogs. Smoke outlooks are also posted on the individual ARA deployment page
The Wildland Fire Air Quality Response Program is coordinated across various federal agency efforts as well at the National Interagency Fire Center and the incident command teams.
Participating agencies include: Forest Service, National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, National Interagency Fire Center, Environmental Protection Agency, and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration