Camp Fire Air Quality: Get the Right Masks, Stay Indoors When Possible

Both this Walgreen’s and Ace Hardware were sold out of masks, or at least the right kind of masks, which is prompting many to make do with whatever they can find.

Posted: Nov 11, 2018 6:35 AM
Updated: Nov 11, 2018 9:37 AM

BUTTE COUNTY, Calif. - “We didn't know what to do today,” one Camp Fire evacuee said. “They asked to go to the playground and I said ‘no, do you smell the air it's stinky!’”

From kids to the elderly and everyone in between, the air quality is taking its toll.

“I've noticed a lot of people with masks on and I feel like I should be wearing one too because if feeling really dizzy,” they said. 

Both this Walgreen’s and Ace Hardware were sold out of masks, or at least the right kind of masks, which is prompting many to make do with whatever they can find.

“I was thinking even those these aren't the best medical grade for smoke, anything helped,” they said. 

But the Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD) says not so fast, while anything is better than nothing.

“We don't necessarily recommend masks as a first choice,” said Lisa Fasano, with the BAAQMD.

Fasano said masks can give people a false sense of security and encourage people to unnecessarily go outside when they should be indoors with the windows closed.

“If they have to be outside we recommend that they use an n95 mask like these here,” Fasano said.

And she notes, they must be worn correctly.

“The mask should cover both your nose and your chin, with one strap on top of your head and the other below your ears,” Fasano said. “You also need to pinch the metal piece tight over your nose to help seal out the fine particles.”

The best practice is for people to stay indoors and stay out of the smoke all together which, for many, this weekend, will be easier said than done.

“Tomorrow is my daughter's second birthday party which is at the playground and we're thinking about having masks as party favors if we do decide to have it outside,” she said. 

Fasano said the N95 masks are not suitable for children or men with beards. She also notes they should only be worn once, straight from the plastic package.

As for other kinds of masks like these, they filter out some large partials but they won’t filter out the fine particulate matter that is most dangerous.

Some other tips from the American Lung Association:

  • Don't vacuum (stirs up particulate matter in the house.)
  • Don't use stove or oven (impacts air-quality in the home)
  • Don't wear outside clothes or shoes inside and rise off when you get home
  • You should also keep doors & windows and fireplace flues shut
  • Put wet rags around windows that don't seal

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