Dr. Paul Auerbach is the world's leading outdoor health expert. His blog offers tips on outdoor safety and advice on how to handle wilderness emergencies.See all posts »
More Fire Advice
When a fire is burning in your vicinity, the air quality is often markedly diminished. At times, you can taste the smoke and find ash drifting into your hair. It is not the time to be exercising, and certainly not a time to be backpacking or riding mountain trails that might be engulfed in the fire line. Persons with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), asthma, congestive heart failure, or any other cardiopulmonary condition in which oxygen supply is critical need to be very cautious, and remain indoors in an air-filtered, air-conditioned environment if possible. If the smoke becomes momentarily overwhelming, a cool and wet cloth held over the mouth and nose through which to breathe can be helpful. Sometimes a surgical mask can help, but the best thing to do is to avoid the smoke. Persons with asthma or any other form of “reactive airway” disease need to be similarly cautious and be certain to carry bronchodilator medications with them at all times.
For everyone else, there is an attraction to get close to fires, to observe them or take photographs. For your safety and the safety of rescuers, please don’t do this. Fire behavior is unpredictable. A wind direction shift and/or increase in wind velocity can move a fire toward you much faster than you can move away from it. Know your escape routes and stay close to them.
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