What to Do When Smoke Is Present
Incident: Rim Fire Wildfire
During wildfires, smoke—a mixture of small particles, gases including water vapor—can drift into communities, affecting air quality. The immediate health concern is that small particles that can cause burning eyes, runny nose, scratchy throat, headaches and illness. Over longer periods of time, repeated exposures can also worsen chronic heart and lung disease.
Much can be done to minimize one’s exposure to smoke, especially by taking advantage of the timing and variation in smoke impacts over the course of the day.
Protect yourself and your family. If you can see and smell smoke, look for air quality updates and monitoring data for more information on how much smoke is in your particular area, and consider curtailing outdoor activities if that’s recommended. The worse the smoke or the more sensitive the individual, the more important it is to make these adjustments.
The following actions can help:
Keep windows closed if you see or smell smoke. If possible, run air conditioners IN THE RECIRCULATE MODE inside the house and car to keep the smoke out.
Run HEPA filters inside to filter out dust and particles that do get into your house. Do not use an air cleaner that works by generating ozone.
Room air cleaners are good to have during smoke emergencies. Make sure that it is a true air cleaner and not a humidifier. If you choose to purchase one, do so before a smoke emergency occurs to avoid having to go to the store and breathing the smoke.
If it is not possible to reduce indoor smoke it is recommended to stay with a friend or relative who can. It helps to get a break from smoke in smoke free place to reduce one’s exposure to smoke.
Reduce other sources of indoor air pollution. Burning cigarettes, gas, propane and wood burning stoves and furnaces and activities such as cooking, burning candles and incense and vacuuming can greatly increase the particle levels in a home and should be avoided when wildfire smoke is present.
Smoke can affect pets too. The same smoke particles that cause problems for people may also cause problems for animals. Don't force your animals to run or work in smoky conditions. If your pet has heart or lung disease, follow the same visibility guidelines as for sensitive people.
Wearing air masks and bandanas are not recommended. If you choose to wear a mask make sure it is a particulate filter mask which has the word “NIOSH” and either “N95” or P100” printed on it. These can be found at hardware stores or pharmacies and can be effective at reducing exposure to smoke particles as long as the respirators seal closely to the wear’s face. It is important to know that these particulate respirators will not provide complete protection and may even interfere with proper breathing.
If you have asthma or other lung diseases, be vigilant about taking the medications prescribed by your doctor. If you are supposed to measure your peak flows, make sure you do so. Call your doctor if your symptoms worsen.
For more information please call or visit:
Daily Rim Fire Air Quality Summary
Mariposa County (for questions about Yosemite Valley, Merced River Canyon)
(209) 966-2220, (888)-966-1133 (recorded message)
Current AQI in Mariposa and Lake Don Pedro (La Grange):
Tuolumne County (Tuolumne River Canyon and points west and north)
(209) 533-5174 (staffed hotline)
Environmental Protection Agency Smoke Website: