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Environmental Toxicology Program

Wildfire Smoke & Your Health

ADHS Wildfire Plan

The ADHS Wildfire PlanPDF details how the Department will handle wildfire emergencies. Smoke generated by wildland fires can pose a major health risk. It is primarily made up of small particles, gases, and water vapor, with trace amounts of hazardous air pollutants. Most harmful are the particles (or particulate matter) smaller than 2.5 micrometers in diameter (70 micrometers is the diameter of a human hair). If these particles are inhaled deeply into the lungs, they can damage lung tissue and cause respiratory and cardiovascular problems.

Symptoms from short-term smoke exposure range from scratchy throat, cough, irritated sinuses, headaches, runny nose, and stinging eyes to more serious reactions among persons with asthma, emphysema, congestive heart disease, and other existing medical conditions. Older adults and children are also high-risk groups. Find out what you can do to protect your health when smoke levels are dangerously high.

Wildfire Safety and Evacuee Information

Individuals and families forced to evacuate their homes due to the 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. Guide for using this smoke tablePDF:

  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.

Dust masks aren't enough! Common masks will not protect your lungs from small particles in smoke. HEPA masks may filter out the small particles but are not suitable for people with lung diseases. Those with lung diseases should follow your respiratory management plan. Call your doctor if symptoms worsen. Learn more about the recommended masks.

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:

  • NARBHA (if you are affected by the Wallow Fire): NARBHA Crisis Line at 1-877-756-4090
  • Cenpatico (if you are affected by the Monument, Murphy, or Horseshoe II Fire): Cenpatico Crisis Line 1-866-495-6735

Nutrition Assistance Information for Women, Infants and Children Affected by the Wallow Fire
Families with pregnant and breastfeeding women, infants, and children up to age 5 who have been evacuated due to the fire in northeastern Arizona may qualify for the WIC Program if they have lost their income. Federal regulations consider the use of current income (none at this time due to the evacuation), to be used for their income eligibility. They may go to any of the WIC sites listed at www.azwic.gov to find the nearest clinic to where they have been relocated.

Current WIC participants in affected areas can go to and request to be transferred to any of the other WIC sites in Arizona or neighboring state. If the neighboring state requires WIC documentation that participants were unable to bring with them during the evacuation, or if anyone has any questions regarding checks that have already been issued, please call 1-866-229-6561.

For information on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as the Food Stamps Program, visit the Health-e-Arizona website.

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Wildfire Information for ADHS Licensed Facilities

If a licensed facility (Long Term Care, Medical, Assisted Living, Child Care, Behavioral Health, DD Group Home) is affected by a wildfire, there are specific steps they must follow. ADHS has information available to help licensees through the processes. While this information is drafted for the medical facilities, many of the processes are the same. If you are in doubt, please contact your licensing office.

  • Evacuation SlideshowPDF
    As a facility prepares for evacuation, this can help operators made good decisions about where to send residents and patients based on their needs.
  • Waiver SlideshowPDF
    After a Governor's declaration, state licensed facilities can ask for waivers of specific rules if needed. This can help you understand the process. Submit your own ADHS License Waiver.PDF
  • Re-Occupation SlideshowPDF
    Licensed facilities looking to reoccupy a building in an area affected by the wildfires, please contact your licensing office. This can help you through the process.

Fire Season Brochures & Flyers

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