What is a Wildfire?
A wildfire is an uncontrolled fire that burns in wild vegetation such as forests, grasslands, savannas, or rural areas. They can exist in every continent or environment.
Wildfires can be classified as:
- Ground (fires that burn in and above the soil)
- Surface (fires that burn in dead or dry vegetation just above the ground)
- Crown (fires that burn in the leaves and canopies of trees and shrubs)
Wildfires are most common during the summer season, especially when the weather is hot and dry. In the early 1950s, wildfire season lasted five months. Due to climate change and other factors, the wildfire season in recent years lasted seven months and peaks during August.
Despite common misconceptions, wildfires are essential to the continued survival of some plant species. Conifers, for example, need to be heated up to open and release the seeds.
How do Wildfires Affect Your Health?
More than 7.6 million acres burned in the US in 2021 due to wildfires. While this number is lower than in past years, it can still be extremely harmful to the lungs, especially for children, older adults and people with asthma, COPD and bronchitis.
One of the main pollutants found in smoke is particle pollution or PM2.5. These particles are incredibly tiny, which facilitates their access to the lungs. PM2.5 can trigger asthma, respiratory problems, stroke, and even heart attacks.
Another threatening component of fire smoke is carbon monoxide. This is a colorless, odorless gas that reduces the oxygen levels in the body, causing headaches, nausea, dizziness, among other symptoms.
How Can I be Prepared for the Wildfire Season?
If you live near an area known for wildfires follow these tips:
- Make an emergency plan and be sure everyone in the family knows it.
- Review important documents and be sure they are up to date.
- Create a fire-resistant zone near your home with no leaves, debris, or flammable materials.
- Gather supplies and know your evacuation zone.
If you reside in an area that won't be directly affected by wildfires, you can still be at risk of breathing harmful components such as PM2.5. It is always a good idea to monitor the air quality in your area with hyper-local, real-time data generated from the community.
Worried about air quality?
Monitor the Particulate Matter levels around the world with our free, real-time PurpleAir Map or join PurpleAir's mission to make air quality data accessible to everyone by investing in an air quality monitor for your home.
Together, we can be informed and make changes in our daily habits and the community to improve air quality.