Staying Protected Against California Fires

California has been plagued by fires once again, this time in the Silverado area of Orange County. Flames broke out in Silverado Canyon around 10:15pm on December 2nd after a house fire spread into the brush and set ablaze 7,200 acres just east of Irvine. As a result of the wildfire, thousands of residents have been evacuated from their homes and smoke has made the air quality in surrounding areas unsafe to breathe. With the COVID-19 pandemic among us, face masks are already in regular use for many and they may be able to help keep those with compromised air quality safe.

One of the most effective masks that can protect against coronavirus and wildfire smoke is the KN95. According to former director of the White House Medical Unit Dr. William Lang, KN95s can filter out up to 95% of particles of 0.3 microns or larger. Given that smoke particles from the wildfires are 2.5 microns, the CDC finds these masks suitable for protection. 

Now you may be thinking, “wait, isn’t this information relevant to N95s?” Yes, but Mariana Vance of the University of Colorado, Boulder environmental engineering program, finds that these statistics are the same for KN95s. Vance states that the only difference between the two are testing standards and production location. Since N95s are very hard to come by due to the coronavirus pandemic, the KN95 is a trusted substitution

As far as cloth masks are concerned, they have been useful protection during the pandemic but are not as effective against wildfire smoke. However, they are not completely inadequate; placing a filter in your cloth mask can increase effectiveness. PM 2.5 filters protect against particles up to 2.5 microns, so if you’re unable to find N95s or KN95s this may be a helpful alternative.

This unfortunate fire has displaced thousands of people and the air quality has put many immunocompromised folks at risk, so we hope all of our fellow Californians remain safe during this time and receive the assistance they need.

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