Wildfire and smoke info

Wildfire season is already underway in Washington State. King County is partnering with the City of Seattle, the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency, and other regional stakeholders to help our communities prepare for and function during what is expected to be another busy wildfire season. Click one of the links below to be taken directly to that information, or use your browser’s scroll function.

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Check air quality

Air quality conditions can change quickly. Puget Sound Clean Air Agency (PSCAA) issues air quality burn bans when smoke threatens the health of residents. The agency also issues air quality forecasts as needed. PSCAA covers King, Kitsap, Pierce, and Snohomish counties, working to protect public health, improve neighborhood air quality, and reduce our region’s contribution to climate change.

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Burn ban information

A fire safety burn ban is in effect as of July 1 in unincorporated areas of King County, due to dry and warm weather conditions and elevated fire danger. During the ban:

  • All outdoor burning is prohibited, except for recreational fires in approved devices and locations.
  • All burning permits are suspended until further notice and no additional permits will be issued in the unincorporated areas of King County.
  • Recreational fires must be in a designated fire pit using only charcoal or dry firewood (no milled lumber).

Air quality burn bans are issued by Puget Sound Clean Air Agency (PSCAA) to tell people about possible health impacts arising from increased air pollution.

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Prepare now for wildfire smoke season

Consider getting an air purifier. Air purifiers with a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter will reduce the number of irritating fine particles in indoor air. A HEPA filter with charcoal will help remove some of the gases from the smoke. If you have asthma or another respiratory condition, make sure you have an inhaler or other medications that you might need. Make an asthma management plan with your healthcare provider. Make plans for indoor activities for kids on smoky days. Consider what your children can do if they need to stay indoors when smoke levels are “unhealthy for sensitive groups” or worse. Staying indoors with windows closed and air conditioning on (if you have it) is your best bet when air quality is poor. Masks don’t work for everyone.

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Wildfire prevention tips

King County’s Forestry Program partners with Firewise USA, a national program that encourages local solutions for wildfire safety. They also provide resources for homeowners in preparing for wildfires.

Top eight tips for maintaining a wildfire safety zone in the 30 feet around your home:

  1. Remove all dead plant material from around your home. Rake up dry leaves (under decks and porches too!) and move firewood away from the house.
  2. Place a three- to five-foot swath of gravel or stones around the foundation of your home instead of flammable mulch.
  3. Prune branches that overhang or touch the house.
  4. Take out “ladder fuels,” vegetation between grass and treetops that can carry fire between foliage and structures.
  5. Keep blowing embers out of your house. Cover exterior vents with fine (1/8-inch) mesh.
  6. Store flammable materials, including cushions, indoors instead of on porches and decks.
  7. Use fire-resistant construction materials such as Class-A asphalt shingles, metal, or concrete products for your roof.
  8. Use fire-resistant plants in the garden. Read our list of fire-resistant plants for the Puget Sound Basin, or search our illustrated online Native Plant Guide for fire-resistant plants.

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Protect your health when air is smoky

Check the air quality forecast. Air quality conditions may change quickly. Go to Puget Sound Clean Air Agency’s website at pscleanair.org or follow them on Twitter (@pscleanair) for the current smoke level report for King County.

Stay indoors when possible. Limit your physical activity outdoors (including running, biking, physical labor, and sports) when:

  • the smoke level is “moderate” or worse if you have a health condition (like asthma, heart disease, diabetes, or a cold)
  • the smoke level is “unhealthy for sensitive groups” or worse if you are pregnant, over age 65, a child or an infant
  • the smoke level is “unhealthy for everyone.”

Keep indoor air clean. Close windows and doors. Don’t smoke, use candles, or vacuum. Use an air cleaner with a HEPA filter if possible. Use fans or an air conditioner (AC) when it’s hot, if possible. Set your AC to recirculate, rather than bringing in fresh air. If you don’t have AC and it’s too hot to stay home, go to a place with AC like a mall, the library, or a movie theater. If you do use AC, be sure to check and clean or change the filter regularly.

If your health conditions get worse around smoke, contact your health care provider. Call 9-1-1 if you or someone else has serious symptoms, like trouble breathing.

Check on others. Check on elderly or at-risk neighbors. Make sure they have what they need. Offer them a place with cleaner indoor air if available.

Public Health – Seattle & King County has additional information and tips about dealing with wildfire smoke.

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Masks and wildfire smoke

The right mask and proper fit can reduce your exposure to wildfire smoke, but they don’t work for everyone. Wearing a mask may worsen existing medical conditions. Wearing a mask makes it more difficult to breathe because it takes extra effort to move air through the mask. If you have breathing problems (like asthma or COPD) or heart disease, check with your healthcare provider before using any mask.

Some masks offer limited protection. Only use a mask after first trying other, more effective ways to avoid smoke, like staying indoors and reducing outdoor activity. Respirator masks labeled N95 or N100 can filter out fine particles from smoke but not hazardous gases (like carbon monoxide). Cloth (wet or dry), paper masks, and tissues will NOT filter out wildfire smoke.

If you choose to use one, your mask must fit tightly to be effective. Straps must go above and below the ears and the mask should fit over the nose and under the chin. The mask should not let air in from the sides around the nose and chin. Masks do not work on people with beards or young children because they do not fit snugly on their faces. Questions about masks? Talk to your doctor or healthcare provider. Get more information.

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Where to go when it’s hot and smoky

  • If you don’t have air conditioning in your home, consider visiting a local movie theater, shopping mall, or library with air conditioning.
  • King County is ready to open selected buildings as respite centers from smoke and heat if weather conditions require it. Information about hours and locations will be posted here.
  • The City of Seattle is also identifying stations, and will release a list when available.
  • For a list of other centers throughout King County, call 211 or visit WIN211.org.

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Tips for pets

Animals also face challenges during the wildfire smoke season. Regional Animal Services of King County (RASKC) provides information for people to help their pets in emergencies, including summer heat and wildfires. As with humans, try to limit your pet’s outdoor activity when weather conditions are at their worst. Always make sure pets have plenty of cool water and shade available, and never leave a pet in a hot car. Check heat safety tips for pets for information. If you need to evacuate due to smoke or wildfire, have a plan to take your pet with you.

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Workplace safety

Since wildfire smoke contains chemicals that are hazardous to human health, people who work outdoors are particularly vulnerable to its effects. The Washington State Department of Labor and Industries (L&I) has information for employees and employers to help keep workers safe.

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