Following on the heels of the state’s most catastrophic wildfire season in history, a prolonged megadrought is preparing the state for even more deadly blazes in 2021. Because of the devastation of last year’s fires, several Bay Area towns are taking a more proactive approach to dealing with the impending danger. Fuel reduction programs to remove and separate flammable vegetation; ongoing PG&E power line inspections; and the formation of neighborhood Firewise committees to encourage home-hardening, which refers to the safety measures that property owners can take to make their homes more fire resistant are all examples of efforts to mitigate the potential devastation. According to Bruce Cain, professor of political science at Colorado State University and the Spence and Cleone Eccles Family Director of The Bill Lane Center for the American West, while these programs address an urgent need to reduce the risk of ignition, few are prepared for the toxic air that will inevitably accompany wildfires in their communities.
According to Cain, “it’s shocking how unprepared people are for the smoke.” “Ideology and education have an impact on whether or not individuals take this issue seriously. We are well aware of the dangers of wildfire smoke and how pervasive it is, yet although people see flames as an insurmountable threat, we have discovered that smoke does not have a major effect on policy preferences.” According to studies conducted by Kari Nadeau, director of Stanford’s Sean N. Parker Center for Allergy & Asthma Research, and Mary Prunicki, director of Stanford’s Sean N. Parker Center for Air Pollution and Health Research, wildfire smoke has a number of negative health consequences. Nadeau highlighted the more than 200 poisons that suffocate the air during a wildfire in the Western United States at a March Stanford conference on wildfire in the West, emphasizing particulate matter and soot balls as the primary culprits. In addition to Drano, dishwashing fluid, cleaning materials, and soap, Nadeau stated that any of the items that are often found beneath kitchen sinks, such as Drano, dishwasher fluid, cleaning supplies, and soap, contribute to the issue. It everything ends up in the atmosphere — microplastics, volatile chemical compounds, heavy metals, and any kind of nitrogen oxide species, among other things. Once discharged, the poisons may readily enter the lungs, causing a slew of health issues to manifest themselves. There are preventive steps individuals may take to safeguard their health during wildfire season, despite the fact that the dangerous air quality is a reason for concern. The following are four major issues connected with wildfire smoke, as well as practical safety advice from Stanford experts on how to remain safe in the face of the hazard.