Since August 18th, California has been battling wildfires which have scorched over 780,000 acres of forest and grasslands. Fanned by a record heatwave and strong winds, raging wildfires have grown even more fierce and frequent over the last several years. Up to now, the recent fires have killed at least six people and destroyed thousands of structures. The economic losses are continuing to mount as evacuations expand. Firefighters have been fighting the blazes around the clock, but the increasing blazes are stretching the firefighting capacity to the limit. The incoming strong winds and lightning are expected to blow-up more fires in the West, and the government is forced to make priorities. There is no end in sight.
What you need to know about the wildfire, the causes and the effects
The severe wildfire is not a rare case but has become a significant concern every summer in the US. In essence, wildfires are uncontrollable and often start from a rural area with vegetation. It is a natural phenomenon and has been happening for thousands of years.
Lightning strikes are one of the most common causes of a wildfire. Nevertheless, fire growth will depend on weather conditions such as temperature, wind, and humidity. The long-lasting and intensive wildfires in California have been increased due to irrational climate change, extreme drought conditions, and a late wet season.
In some areas, a wildfire is part of the ecosystem which can kill sick trees and is vital to the continued survival of plant species. While the fire is out of control, there will be a devastating impact on the entire ecosystem and human life.
As fact tells, the 2019–2020 Australian bushfire has already resulted in biodiversity extinction, with over one billion animals killed in the accident. Apart from this, the heavy smoke from wildfires can cause serious health concerns. A wildfire will produce fine particle air pollution. These particles can affect your eyes and respiratory system, leading to severe health disorders like a runny nose and stinging eyes.
According to the World Health Organization, people with lung diseases or chronic illnesses, children, and people who work outdoors are particularly vulnerable to pollution. Even if you are healthy, avoiding any exposure to heavy smoke is a wise decision.
What is also a profound concern is the massive emission of carbon dioxide because wildfires could further contribute to global warming and unexpected heatwaves. There is a likelihood that mega-fires could occur in a repeated manner as a result of the climate feedback loop.
Picture 2: The smoke turned Australian skies yellow
How to protect yourself from the wildfire season
If you live in an area where the wildfire risk is high, there are several tips for protecting your health from wildfire season.
1. Stay indoors as much as possible.
Keep doors and windows shut and turn on the air conditioner to keep the air cool and fresh. Air conditioners set to recirculate minimize the amount of smoke that enters the home. The filter inside can also help trap some large particles like dust.
2. Get an air purifier with a high-efficiency HEPA filter.
Using an air purifier can help remove large particles from the air and keep your family safe from the effects of wildfire smoke. Please pick the right capacity for your treated area. If available, consider purchasing H13 medical-grade filters which can trap up to 99.97% of the air particles, including smoke.
3. Wear an N95 mask outdoors.
If you’re going outdoors, please wear an N95 mask instead of other dust masks. For more information, you can check out NIOSH’S Respirator Fact Sheet/, provided by CDC's National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.
4. Don’t add to your indoor pollution
In order to have clean air indoors, please avoid any activities that might create more fine particles indoors, including burning candles or smoking. Do not use the vacuum cleaner, as vacuuming stirs up particles unless you use a vacuum with a HEPA filter.
5. Be informed.
Always be aware of what is happening around you and pay attention to the air quality report. When a wildfire occurs, please carefully follow the State’s advice. Evacuate if necessary. Check out Red Cross Safety Tips for more details.
We hope that the above information can offer some help. Stay safe and sound!
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Use information at your own risk: The information presented is intended for educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never disregard professional medical or home improvement advice. The information and suggestions should be discussed with a professional. You are responsible for independently verifying the information if you intend to rely upon or use it in any way. You use all information at your own risk.