Wildfires & Air Quality
Information regarding wildfire effects on North Dakota Air Quality.
Questions may be addressed to the Department at 701.328.5188, or email Ryan Mills (RMills@nd.gov).
Wildfire smoke contains a number of different compounds. At high concentrations, these compounds can be harmful to our health. Fine particulate matter is a major component of smoke – it can travel long distances, and can move deeply into the lungs when we breathe. Sensitive groups, including young children, the elderly, and individuals with reduced respiratory and heart function, are especially susceptible to particulate matter in the air.
- Stay Informed
Conditions can change with the weather. Depending on the weather, wildfire smoke can stay several hundred feet in the air or drop all the way down to the ground. This is one of the reasons why the Department runs monitors at ground level that measure air quality 365 days every year.
See below or visit our Air Quality Monitoring page to view the hourly AQI animated map and look for Orange (Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups) or Red (Unhealthy) colors in your area.
When impacts are severe, widespread, or lengthy, the Department will distribute press releases and post information on our website.
Visit with your family physician for advice on managing the health impacts of wildfire smoke.
- Be Prepared
Purchase N95 NIOSH approved respirator masks . These relatively inexpensive masks remove at least 95% of the particulate in the air we breathe. Fit test the masks to make sure they make a good seal around your mouth and nose before an event.
NOTE: Ordinary dust masks and surgical masks WILL NOT remove fine particulate. Look for N95 or better.
Warning Possible Risks:
- Wearing a respirator can make it harder to breathe. If you have heart or lung problems, ask your doctor before using a respirator.
- If you have difficulty breathing, get dizzy, or have other symptoms while wearing a respirator, go to a place with cleaner air and remove it.
- Wearing a respirator, especially if it’s hot or you are physically active, can increase the risk of heat-related illness. Take breaks often and drink water.
- Respirators do not come in sizes suitable for children. Since they would not fit well enough to provide a tight face seal, they would not be effective at reducing exposure.
During a smoke event with high levels of particulate matter, move into an air-conditioned indoor space – if possible. Home air conditioners should be set to recirculate indoor air to reduce the amount of particulate brought into the home.
Installing a HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Air) filter in the home heating and air-conditioning system will reduce existing home particulate. When the smoke event is over, open windows to bring fresh air into the home.
NOTE: Smoke events often occur in the hot summer. Closing up a house with no air conditioning could lead to unhealthy high temperatures inside the home. If no air conditioning is available, consider relocating to a friend or family member’s home with air conditioning, a store, or other air conditioned public space.
If in a vehicle, close windows, turn on air the conditioner to recirculation. Vehicles should not be used as a shelter, so relocate to clean air location or an air conditioned indoor space as soon as possible.
NOTE: With little ventilation inside a closed-up vehicle, temperatures can rise quickly to dangerous levels. NEVER leave children or pets unattended in a vehicle with the windows closed. When moving from a vehicle to a building, try to reduce smoke exposure as much as practical.
Air Quality Index (AQI animated) from EPA AIRNow
Last Updated: 08/20/2018