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.
- “Smoke Ready Communities” Day is June 19
- Check air quality
- Burn ban information
- Prepare now for wildfire smoke season
- Wildfire prevention tips
- Protect your health when air is smoky
- Masks and wildfire smoke
- Where to go when it’s hot or smoky
- Tips for pets
- Fireworks safety and tips
This spring has already been warm and dry, creating ideal conditions for wildfires across our state this summer and fall. The last two years, the Puget Sound region dealt with poor air quality for weeks due to wildfire smoke, and forecasters expect another summer of smoky skies. King County Executive Dow Constantine has declared June 19 to be Smoke Ready Communities Day, a day of awareness about the danger of wildfires and the associated smoke. Prepare now so you’re ready when conditions take a turn for the worse.
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.
Fire safety burn bans are issued by the King County Fire Marshal during dry weather conditions when there is elevated danger due to low moisture in trees and vegetation. Outdoor burning in all of King County is affected, and bans are issued in cooperation with other county and state agencies. As of June 12, there is NO fire safety burn ban in effect.
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.
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.
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:
- 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.
- Place a three- to five-foot swath of gravel or stones around the foundation of your home instead of flammable mulch.
- Prune branches that overhang or touch the house.
- Take out “ladder fuels,” vegetation between grass and treetops that can carry fire between foliage and structures.
- Keep blowing embers out of your house. Cover exterior vents with fine (1/8-inch) mesh.
- Store flammable materials, including cushions, indoors instead of on porches and decks.
- Use fire-resistant construction materials such as Class-A asphalt shingles, metal, or concrete products for your roof.
- 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.
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.
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.
If you don’t have air conditioning, consider visiting a local movie theater, shopping mall, or library. The City of Seattle is identifying clean air stations, and will release a list when available. For areas throughout King County, call 211 or visit WIN211.org.
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.
Instead of lighting your own fireworks, King County recommends attending a public display. Let the professionals put on the entertainment. King County fireworks regulations apply to unincorporated areas outside the jurisdiction of local cities.
Use only approved, legal fireworks from reliable Washington State and King County Fire Marshal licensed retailers.
- You must be at least 16 years old with picture identification to purchase fireworks. Always have a responsible adult light all fireworks.
- Have a charged garden hose or a fire extinguisher handy.
- Use fireworks outdoors only, away from buildings, houses with wood shingles, trees, and dry fields. Avoid aerial fireworks.
- Light one item at a time, move away quickly, and keep a safe distance. Use eye protection. Do not try to relight fireworks that fail to go off.
- Dispose of used fireworks by first soaking them in water. Clean up all debris.
- If a firework does not light or fire, wait a minimum of five minutes before approaching the device.
- If it has a stick or fins and it goes up, or if it blows up, it is illegal in Washington State.
- Rather than buying fireworks, consider attending a public fireworks display.
- Don’t bring pets to a fireworks display. If fireworks are being used near your home, put your pet in a safe, interior room to avoid exposure to the sound. Make sure your pet has an identification tag, in case it runs off during a fireworks display.
- Never shoot off fireworks of any kind near pets.
- In unincorporated King County, fireworks may be discharged only on July 4 from 9 a.m. to midnight. Fireworks sales start at noon on June 28 until 11 p.m.; then daily 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. through July 4. Sales are prohibited after July 4.