Extreme Weather and Public Health

Wildfire Safety

Arizona is one of the hottest and driest places in the United States and also home to several diverse National Forests. These conditions make Arizona prone to wildfires. Persistent drought conditions and high temperatures have contributed to an increase in the amount of wildfires occurring and acres burned. Natural disasters like wildfires have the ability to destroy homes, contribute to landslides, threaten public health, and cause economic damage.

Smoke from wildfires is made of a mixture of gases and fine particles burning from trees and other plant materials. Smoke can hurt your eyes, irritate your respiratory system, and worsen chronic heart and lung diseases. You can take steps to be ready for a wildfire and prepare your home and landscaping to reduce your risk. Learn how to protect yourself and your family from during a wildfirePDF, evacuate safely during a wildfire, and how to stay healthy when you return home.PDF

Learn more about wildfire safety and find valuable information to protect your health using the links below:

Wildfire Safety and Evacuee Information

Individuals and families forced to evacuate their homes due to a wildfire who are receiving WIC supplemental nutrition program assistance can find a clinic near them to continue receiving services. Protect your family's health from wildfire smoke by following these steps:

Pay attention to local air quality reports. Stay alert to any news coverage or health warnings related to smoke. Also find out if your community reports EPA's Air Quality Index (AQI). The AQI, based on data from local air quality monitors, tells you about the daily air quality in your area and recommends precautions you can take to protect your health. As smoke gets worse, the concentration of particles in the air changes, and so do the steps you should take to protect yourself.

Use visibility guides. Monitoring smoke levels from wildland fires is difficult because these fires usually occur in remote areas and the smoke impacts are transitory. Because wildland fire smoke is highly visible, it is possible to visually estimate smoke levels and estimate potential health impacts. Generally, the worse the visibility is, the worse the smoke is. Use this smoke tablePDF as a guide and follow these rules:

  1. Face away from the sun.
  2. Determine the limit of your visibility range by looking for targets at known distances (miles). Visibility range is the point at which even high contrast objects totally disappear.
  3. Use the visibility range values below to determine the applicable health category.

Use common sense. If it looks smoky outside, it is probably not a good time for outdoor activities. And it's probably not a good time for your children to play outdoors.

If you are advised to stay indoors, keep your windows and doors closed. If the home has air conditioning, people can use it, but should keep the fresh air intake closed and the filter clean. No one should use an evaporative cooler when air quality is poor.

Do not add to indoor air pollution. Don't use anything that burns, such as wood fireplaces, gas logs, gas stoves, or even candles. Don't vacuum. That stirs up particles already inside your home. Don't smoke. That puts even more pollution in your lungs, and in the lungs of people around you.

It's good to ask for help dealing with mental health issues during and after a wildfire. Wildfires cause different reactions in people ? some go into an automatic mode to handle the situation and don't deal with the emotional side; other people are consumed by the feelings that go along with an incident of this magnitude. There is help available:

  • If you live in Northern Arizona and have been affected by a fire, call the NARBHA Crisis Line at 1-877-756-4090 or visit the NARBHA website.
  • If you live in Southern Arizona and have been affected by a fire, call the Cenpatico Crisis Line at 1-866-495-6735 or visit the Cenpatico website.