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Wildfires make me panic!

Wildfires Make Me Panic!

Every summer I worry about forest fires and the dry weather, and every summer my worst fears come true.

Forest fires. I hate ’em.

These are some of the driest years I can remember, which is bad because it means the mountains that surround me (which usually make me feel protected), make me worry. There are some green areas that are still beautiful, but there’s also a lot of dead trees, dry wild grass, and brush.

And now we have 9 fires burning throughout our state, fed by all of the dead trees and brush.

California is no different. In fact, I was watching the national news tonight and they said that one of the fires, The Mendocino Complex fire, is so big that you can see the smoke from outer space.

It is also the biggest recorded fire in California history.

I worry about the people in California. I have seen “firenados” on the news – basically like a tornado but it’s fire twisted into a cone and racing across the land like a tornado. The news shows whole neighborhoods reduced to ashes, and people not sure where their houses were because all of the landmarks were also burned.

And if that wasn’t bad enough, there are firefighters and homeowners dying in the fires.

Not only are people being trapped by fire and dying, but even the smoke can be dangerous for those of us with asthma.

One friend in California drove 3 hours north to Oregon to be in an area that is safer for him with his asthma. In fact, he wasn’t the only one. The area he drove to had sold out all of their hotel rooms because so many people were trying to get away from the smoke. Luckily he had a reservation.

The CBS Evening News says:

“… worries about air quality emerged. Smoke clouds wafting from the fires are carrying a toxic mix of gases and fine particles from burning plants and trees, making for unhealthy breathing conditions across much of the West.”

Yeah, it can be hard to breathe, but it can’t be THAT bad for people with asthma to breathe in the smoke, right?


It can be deadly. We had a scary time when my son was younger and ended up in the hospital in ICU  because of the smoke from a nearby forest fire. I’ll never forget the way he was struggling to breathe, the quick response time from the ICU team when his monitors would go off, and the sight of the “crash cart” parked outside his room (for when he would quit breathing and go into cardiac arrest.”

Symptoms from forest fires

The Oregon Public Health Division says that smoke from fires can cause:

  • Watery or dry eyes
  • Persistent cough, phlegm, wheeze,scratchy throat or irritated sinuses
  • Headaches
  • Shortness of breath, asthma attack or lung irritation
  • Irregular heartbeat, chest pain or fatigue
  • Nonfatal and fatal heart attacks

They also say:

“People with chronic heart disease or lung disease such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) may be more likely to have serious health effects from wildfire smoke.”

I am worried again because of all of the smoky air from our fires, and the smoke from the California fires has also blanketed our state. So it’s been orange air quality for the last week.

Besides worry, what do I do?

  • Keep ALL of the windows closed in the house – all day and all night
  • Keep the air conditioner going in the house
  • Use standing air cleaners in the rooms
  • Use the “recirculating” air settings on the car air conditioning
  • Make sure the kids and I don’t miss any days of our controller inhalers
  • Have Albuterol inhalers and the nebulizer handy

When my son ended up in ICU, the smoke was so thick that it came into my house and the kid’s school. The next time that happened a short time later, I quickly packed the kid’s things and checked them out of school and we left town.

I’m watching the air quality. And I know exactly where all the suitcases are so we can leave quickly.

I just hope it doesn’t come to that.

Who else is affected by forest fires and smoke? Anyone else have to leave town?

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


  • BBdgh
    1 year ago

    I’m frustrated that the advice is to close your windows. In Seattle area 75% of the homes do not have air conditioners and with abnormally high temperatures, windows need to stay open. We do recycled air in the car, but do you have any other recommendations for homes without AC and it’s too hot to close the house up.

  • Andrea M Jensen, CHES (R), AE-C author
    12 months ago

    Hi BBdgh, that is frustrating! With temperatures in the 100’s most of summer, all homes where I live have central air or swamp coolers.

    But for homes without AC, you are in luck as I just listened to a webinar about wild fire smoke from the American Lung Association. They shared several resources, including standing air cleaners. We use these in many rooms in our house to help purify the air.

    Here is the link to California Certified Air Cleaners:

    EPA also has some info for indoor air quality:

    Hopefully this helps, good luck!

  • Leon Lebowitz, RRT moderator
    1 year ago

    Hi BBdgh and thanks for your post. This is a challenging situation – that is for certain! Recognizing that you need to keep the windows open (due to the high temperatures and no air conditioning, as you said), this is also letting the smoke-filled air to infiltrate the house (the same as if you were outdoors). While others may come up with additional ideas, my thought at this time is for you to wear a high level protective mask to insulate yourself from the smoke. I’m sorry you’re going through this – clearly you are not alone in Seattle – what is everyone else doing to protect themselves? Leon (site moderator)

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