Wildfires

COVID-19 and Wildfire Smoke

This wildfire season will again be especially challenging with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. There is concern about health impacts of wildfire smoke overlapping with COVID-19 because both impact respiratory and immune systems. Local COVID-19 restrictions may limit how we can reduce our exposure to wildfire smoke.

For public health and air quality officials: Guidance for wildfire smoke and COVID-19 during the 2021 wildfire season (PDF)

Stay up-to-date on the current COVID-19 situation in Washington. See our Frequently Asked Questions for more information.

Emergency Response/Limiting Personnel Exposure

It is important that the public postpone all outdoor burning at this time. Open burning creates the risk of an escaped fire and puts pressure on emergency personnel. As Washington continues to experience community-wide spread of COVID-19, there is a need to minimize any additional pressure on our emergency personnel both in terms of emergency response and unnecessary potential contact with people who may have COVID-19.

Health impact

All outdoor burning is discouraged at this time. Smoke from even a small fire can aggravate respiratory conditions and negatively impact people who are already suffering from the effects of COVID-19.

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Forest fires and wildfires threaten lives and destroy homes and natural resources. You can take action now that can help save lives and help prevent or reduce damage caused by wildfires.

What to do before a wildfire

  • Have an evacuation plan.
  • You may need to leave your home to go to a safe place.
  • Know where you are going and the possible routes to get there.
  • Designate a “safety zone” in case all evacuation routes are burning.
  • If you have special physical or medical needs, be sure to have an ample supply of medication and supplies to take with you if you evacuate. People with heart and lung diseases must be especially careful around wood smoke. Discuss your emergency plans with your medical provider.
  • Make emergency plans for your pets and livestock.
  • Family members should have an out-of-area contact they can call to let them know they are safe when they are separated. Prepare wallet cards with the contact's information.
  • Put together a 72-hour emergency supply kit. Include water, food, protective clothing—sturdy shoes, cotton or wool clothing, long pants, long-sleeved shirt, gloves and a handkerchief. Store in easy-to-carry packs.
  • Store copies of your vital records and lists, photos or videotapes of valuable items in a safety deposit box. Include updated insurance policies.
  • Identify local radio and television stations.
  • They will have the latest information about fires in your area. Prepare your home for a wildfire. Clearly mark all driveways with names/addresses.
  • Remove firewood, shrubs and other combustibles away from the home. Call your local fire, forestry, or natural resources office, or go to www.firewise.org for more ideas on home design and landscaping.
  • Talk to your neighbors about wildfire safety and working together during a wildfire.
  • Always call your local fire department before burning. Be careful when cooking outdoors or using gas-powered equipment on dry, windy days.

When wildfire threatens

  • Remain calm. Listen to the radio and television for fire reports and evacuation information. Follow the advice given by authorities. (However, if you feel threatened, do not wait to leave.)
  • Tell family and friends you may need to evacuate and let them know where you are going. Use your out-of-area contact card.
  • Pre-load your car with emergency supplies, vital records and other valuables. Face your vehicle in the direction of escape. Keep pets confined nearby.
  • Put on protective clothing to protect your body, face and lungs.
  • Prepare a note to post at your home that tells when you left and where you are going.
  • Set up a ladder, garden hoses and sprinklers on the roof. To conserve water, wait until the embers start falling.
  • Check your drinking water. Drinking water systems may be affected by power outages, fluctuations in water pressure and other fire-related issues. Always check our Drinking Water Alerts page to see if your water system has been affected.

If advised to evacuate, do so immediately

  • If there is time—close all windows, vents and doors, and remove lightweight curtains.
  • Shut off your gas utilities.
  • Turn on your home lights.
  • Lock your doors.
  • Post your prepared note on main entrance.
  • Choose a route away from fire hazards. Drive with your lights on and watch for emergency vehicles.
  • If your evacuation route(s) are burning—go to your designated “safety zone.”
  • Do not attempt to re-enter the area until firefighters have declared it safe.

Other languages (All files are PDF.)

DOH Pub 821-044
Revised - March 2008
Reviewed annually