Phoenix, AZ

How to protect yourself from wildfire smoke

Alistair Dominguez

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PHOENIX, AZ — Wildfire smoke from the Rafael and Snake Fires affects several communities in the southern part of Coconino County, near Phoenix. This fire also affects areas south of I-40 and west of I-17, so you must protect yourself from it.

Currently, both fires are consistently producing wildfire smoke. Wildfire smoke itself is a mixture of small particles, gases and water vapor from the fire. The primary health concern is that the tiny particles, although not everyone is exposed to smoke, will induce health problems.

Everyone who can see, taste or smell smoke should minimize all outdoor activities. On the other hand, people with heart disease, lung disease or asthma should avoid the outdoors entirely, especially children and the elderly.

Many factors influence a person's susceptibility to wildfire smoke. These factors include the level, extent and duration of exposure to the smoke, while age and individual susceptibility also had effects to the elements.

Some symptoms can be traced to exposure to smoke. These include burning eyes, runny nose, scratchy throat, headaches, dizziness and nausea.

To avoid this, closing windows and turning off evaporative coolers when smoke is present helps reduce exposure to the smoke. This should be adequate to protect persons without respiratory problems. Nonetheless, people with pre-existing conditions should avoid exposure to the smoke as much as possible, if not at any cost, and consult their healthcare provider if they have any questions.

When smoke levels are high, appropriate protective measures should be followed. Firstly, stay inside with windows and doors shut, then use the recycle or re-circulate mode on the air conditioner inside the home or cars.

During that situation, don't do physical exercise. Also, avoid cooking and vacuuming since both will increase pollutants indoors.

Due to the Rafael Fire, all areas south of I-40, west of I-17, are in SET status. And as a result of the Snake fire, residents of Happy Jack Lodge, Clear Creek Pines 1 and 2, Mahan Park, Poor Farm and Fisher Properties are also in SET status, which is technically a pre-evacuation status.

Coconino County Emergency Management (CCEM) has activated an Emergency Operations Center in response to the fires. For emergency purposes, there is a Call Center which has already been set up to answer questions.

Residents located near the fire may call 928.679.8647 or send an email to rafaelfire@coconino.az.gov. Also, the update of fire information is available at https://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/7567.

For further notice, you can sign up for Emergency Notifications at www.coconino.az.gov/ready.

You can also visit https://coconino.az.gov/DocumentCenter/View/995/Wildfire-and-Prescribed-Burn-Smoke?bidId= for additional information on wildfire smoke.

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