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Disaster Prep and First Response

Wildfires Near and Far Can Affect the Air You Breathe

Photo: Courtesy of Marcus Kauffman

Lindsay Cook CIH, CSP, FAIHA

President, American Industrial Hygiene Association Board of Directors

Distance from a wildfire fire does not always guarantee safety. Depending on weather patterns, those small, potentially hazardous contaminants from burned homes, buildings, vehicles, and plant life can travel long distances and find their way into your home or business — even when windows and doors remain shut.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, many of us are spending an increasing amount of time in our homes. We want the air in our homes to be healthy, but if you live within several hundred miles of a wildfire burn zone, there still can be a degree of uncertainty, particularly when smoke or fire odor is present. Don’t let that uncertainty impact the health of you and your family.

AIHA, the association for professionals committed to ensuring occupational and environmental health and safety (OEHS) in the workplace and community, has developed resources and guidance to protect yourself and your loved ones before, during, and after a fire has occurred. You can find these resources at www.ThinkActFireSmart.org. You will also find tips, videos, and additional vital resources for staying healthy and safe during and after a wildfire event.

After the fire, remediation and restoration needs can be complex, and must be addressed under difficult and trying circumstances. OEHS professionals are experts not only at addressing indoor air quality, but also are available to assist in assessing hazards and determining the steps necessary to re-occupy both homes and businesses after a wildfire. The website also contains the latest technical information and resources for first responders and remediators involved in wildfire restoration.

Don’t go it alone – if you have questions or concerns about the impact of wildfires on indoor air quality, or how to begin restoration for your home or business, you can locate and speak with an OEHS professional in your area.

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