Here at Healthcare Ready, we primarily activate for natural disasters such as hurricanes, tropical storms, and tornadoes on the Eastern and Southern parts of the nation. While these disasters are serious, we often overlook the various negative impacts that a wildfire can have on the surrounding environment and the people that live there. These disasters occur so frequently with little to no casualties, that there is little need to assist patients in these areas. Although wildfires tend to occur in isolated and less populated areas, they can cause major damage for the first responders and citizens in the surrounding areas.
As a California native, I’m no stranger to wildfires and the damage they can bring. California alone sees over 6,000 individual fires each year. Recent wildfires in the Northern California region have caused extensive damages to the property and welfare of thousands of local citizens. Burning over 100,000 acres of land collectively, these wildfires have claimed the lives of at least 15 people. While the initial threat of a wildfire is evident, the invisible threat can easily go undetected. The smoke from wildfires can be extremely detrimental to one’s health. Wildfire smoke is a combination of various gases and fine particles from the burning vegetation (trees, bushes, etc.). This smoke can irritate the respiratory system as well as worsen chronic heart and lung conditions. People with chronic conditions such as asthma, heart disease, and lung disease are at higher risk from wildfire smoke. Children and older adults are also at a higher risk of developing a heart or lung disease. Even healthy individuals are at risk of getting sick from wildfire smoke. Simply breathing in smoke can cause chest pain, irritated sinuses, wheezing and shortness of breath. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends individuals pay close attention to local air quality reports, avoid anything that burns, such as candles and fireplaces, and run an air conditioner if you have one. Keeping a freestanding indoor air filter with particle removal can help protect people with heart disease, asthma or other respiratory conditions and the elderly and children from the effects of wildfire smoke. While natural disasters don’t always pose as threats to people who encounter them, it’s always imperative to be mindful of the harmful effects that can results from even the smallest wildfire.