The smoky season is around the corner

Wildfire smoke has become an unwelcome and unhealthy part of summers in the Puget Sound region in recent years. Health effects can vary greatly from person to person. The smoke’s tiny particles are bad for lungs, hearts, and sinuses, and people with underlying medical conditions such as asthma suffer the most.

Health authorities say people can make their homes as safe as possible from wildfire smoke by creating a clean-air room. This should be a room large enough for everyone in the household and comfortable for extended periods while windows and doors in the room are closed, keeping its air isolated from the rest of the house. And if you have an HVAC system, the Environmental Protection Agency recommends using a high-efficiency filter—MERV 13 or higher. You can also make an air cleaner by attaching a filter to the back (air-intake side) of a standard box fan.

Smoke from wildfires can particularly harm people with heart or lung disease, the elderly, children, and pregnant women and the elderly. Other groups at higher risk include people who are obese, who smoke, have diabetes or COVID-19, or have prior history of heart attacks or strokes.

Counties declare burn bans to reduce the likelihood of wildfires when conditions make them most possible.

 Counties declare burn bans to reduce the likelihood of wildfires when conditions make them most possible. For instance, a ban for all of Pierce County except cities and towns took effect June 1 and was to continue until further notice. It was ordered by the county fire marshal.
A similar ban in Pierce County in 2023 lasted from June 6 to Oct. 3.
There are two types of burn bans:
  • Air-quality burn bans are issued and enforced by the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency when air pollution is at unhealthy levels. The bans typically occur during fall and winter to address smoke from residential burning for heat.  
  • Fire-safety burn bans are issued by fire marshals when dry weather heighten the potential for wildfires, mainly during summer months.