Air Quality: Fire and Smoke

Smoke from a fire contains a mix of gases, particles and chemicals. If you breathe in smoke, you may experience temporary eye, nose and throat irritation. People with asthma or other cardiovascular or respiratory conditions may be more vulnerable to health effects from smoke exposure.

Follow these tips to stay safe in the short-term if there has been a fire in your building or in your neighborhood.

  • Stay indoors and keep your windows closed.
  • Close the fresh air intake on your air conditioner to prevent outdoor air from entering your home.
  • Clean fabric-covered furniture and other porous materials.
  • Look out for air quality alerts.
  • Use an air purifier.

After a fire in your building, it could take several weeks for the smells to go away. During this time, it’s important to clean thoroughly and ventilate as much as possible to improve indoor air quality.

Air Purifiers

Air purifiers vary widely in their ability to remove air pollutants, though some may improve indoor air quality (PDF). Always follow manufacturers’ recommendations for using air purifiers.

Keep in mind:

  • No air purifier can remove all pollutants from the air.
  • The most common air purifiers are designed to remove only particles. These purifiers will not affect odors caused by the gases in smoke.
  • The use of ultraviolet (UV) light in air purifiers does not effectively help to remove smoke from the air.
  • Some air purifiers release ozone gas, a known lung irritant and asthma trigger. These should not be used under any conditions.

Get Assistance

If there was a fire in your area and you are experiencing shortness of breath or chest pains, get medical attention immediately.

See your doctor if you have asthma, heart disease or another health condition that is getting worse. You do not need to see your doctor for minor irritation.

If there has been a fire in your neighborhood and you are concerned about the air quality, call 311.

More Information