As we know, larger fires are fueling across different parts of Australia right now and authorities signal that these might continue for months. This isn’t local but a global matter. Humans and animals are fleeing in search of shelter, bushfires are day by day getting brutal, and an estimated 480 million animals and at least 24 people are dead. Infrastructure is destroying, further skies are turning orange, air quality is getting worse, and nearly 15 million acres of land are burning which is 6-8 times bigger as compared to the catastrophic 2018 Amazon or California wildfires. The effects of climate change, to some extent, are quite evident and it’s an alarming situation for all of us.
Tips to Protect Yourself Against The Wildfire Smoke and How to Protect
Evacuations, environmental havoc, injuries, and health hazards stretch much ahead of the point of origin. In light of this, we’d like to mention a few ways in which you can protect yourself from the dangerous wildfire smoke that may every year compromise your well-being. But before that…
What Are Wildfires?
A majority of wildfires are usually caused by individual activities than occurring naturally. These rapidly spread through the landscape and remain uncontrolled consuming not just the greens but the lives of both animals and humans. The Fire Triangle also known as the Combustion Triangle helps us understand that most fires require just three major components to ignite – oxygen, heat, and fuel. And, removing any of these can easily extinguish or prevent fires. Once there’s a spark around flammable objects, dead or living vegetation, in this case, the resulting flames thrive off the surrounding winds (oxygen) spreading them more and more. Wildfires being an outdoor incidents, get an endless supply of oxygen burning through several months together.
What Causes The Wildfires?
Natural: Climate warming, lightning, or volcanic eruption can strike a massive fire. These make way for hot and dry conditions for fires to erupt. Nonetheless, such reasons account for only 10% of forest fire incidents.
Manmade: Unattended campfires, discarded cigarettes, burning debris, engine sparks, fireworks, intentional acts of arson, and other such human activities are what makeup 90% of treacherous wildfires.
No matter what, both of the causes lead to devastating consequences. In some cases, these wildfires are also intentionally put up – but for the good. Sometimes, farmers choose this method to remove any harmful or disease-causing plants or insects. It also creates a way for sunshine to reach the seedlings on the forest floor. However, it isn’t a successful, safe, or sure-shot method.
How Wildfire Smoke Affects Us?
People lose their homes, the wild lives are no longer a part of their habitat, all of the vegetation is lost and a huge amount is spent on repairing and rebuilding the lost resources during wildfires. Quality soil and agricultural fields are ruined, fires cause the extinction of several species and on top of it, smoke creates allergies and other medical issues. Thus, insurance premiums rise high and air pollution makes breathing difficult. Adults and/ or kids may contract chronic bronchitis, angina, asthma, or vision impairment. The flames aren’t the only major element affecting you – smoke (a hazardous mix of gases and particulate matter travels far beyond creating a defenseless space. Prevailing winds carry wildfire smoke which leads to the creation of colorful sunsets and unhealthy air quality levels. Wildfire and the resulting smoke don’t burn through the community but consume what may ever come into
Solutions to Wildfires Smoke
Try these ways to keep yourself away from the adverse effects of wildfire smoke:
1. Be Ready
Usually, every country has its fire season. This is why you must stay prepared beforehand – maintain your stock of non-perishable medicines, food, water, and other necessary stuff. Chalk out a plan in case you need to evacuate and reach an emergency shelter. Have your certificates and documents in hand. Also, gather all your pet’s stuff and keep monitoring the daily reports. Be ready!
2. Stay Indoors
Limit your outdoor exposure. Be sure that you aren’t in any way pulling the dangerous smoky air inside. Keep the doors and windows as much closed as possible. Make the safest choice for you and your family. Do not vacuum, burn candles, or light fireplaces since these can increase indoor pollution.
3. Check Your AC
While you are suggested to stay indoors as much as possible, make sure that if you are running air conditioners, those are not pulling the outside air inside your rooms. Block the fresh air intake system and keep the filters clean. If it feels warmer inside and you do not have an AC, seek shelter at an evacuation center but do not keep the doors or windows open.
4. Avoid Particulate Matter
But how? Use the Airthings Wave detector that can detect and determine the levels of variables such as dust i.e. particulate matter during wildfires. This will help you keep a check on excessive exposure to any cardiovascular problems. Plus, you will also know what your indoor air is made up of.
5. Consider CO2
Similar to PM 2.5 levels, consider determining the carbon dioxide levels around too. The greens that would have taken the CO2 in for the release of oxygen during photosynthesis are no more. Thus, watching over the CO2 levels is equally important so you can take additional steps. No matter whether you are in a low or high-risk zone, keep bamboo palm or peace lilies inside your homes since they freshen up the surrounding air.
6. Use Air Purifiers
Wildfire smoke ruins the air quality not just in the region of its origin but much ahead. Strong winds spread the particulate matter to greater distances which is why people are suggested to remain indoors and certainly use air purifiers. Although the indoor quality is no less, you can still maintain cleaner levels. It also ensures you are staying away from the direct dangers of wildfire smoke. Also, the ones that come along with HEPA filters help reduce the harmful pollutants in the air you inhale to a substantial level.
7. Keep Air Masks Readily Available
The best ones to use are N-95 respiratory masks. These protect you against the side effects of wildfire ashes and smoke. There are more such varieties available at medical stores such as the paper/ surgical ones but those are more suitable for DIY activities and aren’t defensive. When there’s a high demand for N-95, you can go for N-100. The tighter your mask fits (perfectly sealing your face), the better it safeguards but it also equally makes you feel warmer. However, such a fit is necessary so those smaller particles don’t make their way inside your lungs as opposed to the larger ones that can still be obstructed.
Even before you start to deal with the aftermath of smoke, here’s what you need to take care of:
- Regularly stay up-to-date with the weather forecast. Since the weather is one of the major reasons that further spread the wildfires along with the smoke, plan things accordingly.
- Do not light fires in prohibited areas. Wherever you do, make sure it’s controlled and if the need arises, it can easily be put down. Also, follow the local rules and regulations concerned with lighting fires in open spaces.
- Burning anything unusual or combustible can be dangerous. So, use materials that are not going to spread the fire or cause any such harm in nature.
- If you smoke, completely dispose of the cigarette so it doesn’t ignite a spark in the forest areas.
These were a few tips to help you protect yourself and your family from the dangerous wildfire smoke during the fire season in your region. Other than that, stay closely in contact with your community as there’s nothing better than moral support during times of emergencies.