Wildfire Smoke & Ash Health & Safety Tips

Información en español

Protect Yourself During a Wildfire

If you smell smoke or see ash due to a wildfire, here are ways to limit your exposure:

  • Remain indoors with windows and doors closed or seek alternate shelter;

  • Avoid vigorous physical activity;

  • Run your air conditioner if you have one. Make sure it has a clean filter and that it is recirculating the indoor air to prevent bringing additional smoke inside;

  • Avoid using a whole-house fan or a swamp cooler with an outside air intake;

  • Avoid using indoor or outdoor wood-burning appliances, including fireplaces and candles.

Older adults, young children, pregnant women, and people with heart diseases or lung diseases (such as asthma) may be especially sensitive to health risks from wildfire smoke.

Do not rely on dust masks for protection. Paper “dust masks” can block large particles, such as sawdust, but do not protect your lungs from the small particles or gases in wildfire smoke. Disposable respirators such as N-95 or P-100 respirators can offer some protection, if they are worn properly and have a tight fit. Information about using respirators to protect from wildfire smoke or ash can be found here:

Wildfire Information Resources 

South Coast AQMD: 

After a Wildfire

Take precautions when cleaning up ash from wildfires. Ash has different health effects than smoke since its particles are usually larger than smoke particles.

Recommendations for Ash Clean Up:

  • If you have heart or lung problems, don’t cleanup ash or soot.

  • Avoid skin contact with the ash.

  • Don’t use leaf blowers! Use damp cloths and spray lightly with water. Direct ash-filled water to ground areas and away from the runoff system.

  • If you need to clean the ash in your home, use vacuums with HEPA filters or if possible, similar industrials ones with disposable collection filter bags. Sweeping gently with a broom is another option.

  • Take your car to the car wash.

  • Wash off toys.

  • Clean ash off pets. 

Additional Resources

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