What You Need To Know About Wildfire Safety

  • Know what to do before, during, and after a wildfire.
  • Learn your evacuation routes and plan to evacuate if advised by local authorities.
  • Have emergency supplies in place at home, at work, and in the car.
  • Check your insurance policies to ensure you have enough coverage.
  • Create a communications plan with your family.
  • Listen to local officials.

Plan Ahead

Air Resource Advisors (ARA) + Smoke/AQ Forecasting

Some of the bigger fires will have an air quality specialist assigned to the fire’s incident management team. That person is called an “Air Resource Advisor” or “ARA.” If there is an Air Resource Advisor assigned to a fire near you, you should reach out to that person to be included in information and coordination efforts. You can check to see if an ARA is assigned here: https://www.wildlandfiresmoke.us/air-resource-advisors/deployments. Click on the place marker for your fire and a box will pop up with contact information for the Air Resource Advisor. Please be aware that ARAs typically rotate out every two weeks.

If an ARA is not assigned you can try to encourage the fire incident management team to order one. You can get contact information for the incident management team for each fire here: https://inciweb.nwcg.gov/. You can also ask EPA for support if you need some forecasting assistance and there is no ARA, however our resources in this area are very limited.

Fire Coordination

In CA

Every day there is a “smoke” call at 1PM. These calls provide a daily overview of meteorology, smoke dispersion and air quality, and fire activity, with report outs from Air Resource Advisors assigned to fires. These calls start extremely promptly. If you join late you’ll miss a lot. The latest call-in information is below. If you have trouble with joining this call, please contact Greg Vlasek at CA Air Resources Board for assistance. greg.vlasek@arb.ca.gov 

Call-in: 888-844-9904. Passcode: 5189154

You can also access fire potential outlooks and other products at https://gacc.nifc.gov/oncc/ (Northern CA) and https://gacc.nifc.gov/oscc/ (Southern CA)

Air Quality Data

Please bookmark https://fire.airnow.gov/ to access air quality data during wildfires. This map displays regulatory monitors, temporary smoke monitors, and low-cost sensors (with corrected, quality assured data). This map will also link to smoke forecasts issued by any Air Resource Advisors assigned to fires in your area. We recommend this map as the primary source of information for your community during fires.

The map will undergo some changes in early summer. You can get a sneak peek at these changes in about a week by going to a beta version of the map at https://sensorpilot.app.cloud.gov/index.html [ Username: sensor / Password: pilot]. This site also has training materials on using the map. This “beta” version of the map is only for state, local, and tribal agency partners.

But what if there are no monitors here?!

Many of you are in areas without enough or without any monitors. You may wonder what you can do? There are a few options.

1. While you pursue these other avenues you may wish to explore the use of visibility-based Air Quality Indexes. These indexes attempt to roughly correlate visibility ranges (such as 1 mile) to rough Air quality Index levels to provide guidance to your community about activities and other protective measures. There are a few examples out there. Nevada DEP’s guide on using visibility is here: http://dcnr.nv.gov/uploads/documents/AQI_Estimator_General_Public.pdf; and here is a guide from New Mexico: https://nmtracking.org/environment/air/FireAndSmoke.html. These are rough guides and lots of things can impact the use of visibility. Always advise your residents to listen to their body and if they feel sick, or see or smell smoke and ash, to take protective measures.

2. Check to see if there is an Air Resource Advisor assigned to a fire near you by checking the ARA Deployments page. If there is an ARA assigned to your fire, contact them and they may be able to deploy a monitor in a representative area. If there is not an ARA consider requesting that one be assigned (see ARA section above).

3. If there are no ARAs for your fire and you are in CA, contact the CA Air Resources Board (CARB) Incident Monitoring Team for assistance (contact information in table at bottom of this website). https://ww2.arb.ca.gov/our-work/programs/incident-air-monitoring/requesting-carb-emergency-air-monitoring-support-services. CARB may be able to provide temporary smoke monitors (EBAMs) or purple air monitors.

4. If there are no ARAs for your fire and you are outside of CA, contact the Fire Coordination Center for your area (see “Fire Coordination” section above).

5. If these avenues do not provide you the assistance you need, contact the EPA for further support. We may be able to help make requests but we do not have our own supply of monitoring equipment for fires.

Smoke Blogs

California operates a Smoke Blog which is a good place to post information about fires and smoke in your area. Please contact Ann Hobbs if you would like to know how to make posts to the smoke blog. You’ll see daily wildfire-related air quality forecasts there if they are being generated. It’s a good resource to make sure people are aware of. http://californiasmokeinfo.blogspot.com/

Wildfire Smoke Fact Sheets (Print in your office or provide electronic links)

EPA, CDC, and other partners have developed fact sheets on a number of wildfire topics. You can print these in your office or provide electronic copies. Topics include smoke, ash, air filtration, protecting pets and livestock, along with others. https://www.epa.gov/smoke-ready-toolbox-wildfires/wildland-fire-publications-fact-sheets-and-other-resources#h_fact_sheets

Social Media Templates and Videos

USFS has collected smoke ready social media that can be used and modified. https://sites.google.com/firenet.gov/wfaqrp-external/smoke-ready/smoke-ready-social-media. This site also includes a few videos. In addition, EPA’s Pacific Southwest region has a video on protecting children’s health from smoke: https://youtu.be/yjjDSDfonik and a video explaining the Air Quality Index: https://youtu.be/NMVH0R8ycbI.

Instructions for Creating A Clean Air Room (website)

https://www.epa.gov/indoor-air-quality-iaq/create-clean-room-protect-indoor-air-quality-during-wildfire

Instructions for Creating a DIY Air Cleaner (video and print)

DIY Box Fan instructions from the Confederate Tribes of the Colville Reservation. To prevent accidental fires, instruct members to use only 2012 or newer box fan to construct. If using an older box fan, never leave it running unattended or while sleeping. https://www.cct-enr.com/box-fan-filter

Air Quality Flags

We have air quality flag sets color-coded to the AQI. If you have a flag pole you can fly them on and you think they would be useful for communicating the air quality forecast we can send you a set for free. However, with COVID restrictions it make take several days to get into the office and ship a set to you. Contact Kate Harper. More information on the air quality flag program: https://www.airnow.gov/air-quality-flag-program/

Air Quality Education Resources

https://www.airnow.gov/publications/2021-air-quality-awareness-week/educational-resources/

The Wildfire Smoke Guide for Public Health Officials

This guide offers detailed information on what public health officials should do to help their communities during wildfires. Look for updates on the post-publication updates page (coming soon: guidance on children’s use of respirator masks, and school air quality). https://www.airnow.gov/publications/wildfire-smoke-guide/wildfire-smoke-a-guide-for-public-health-officials/