Wildfire Smoke / Particulate Information


Particulate Matter - Wildfire smoke is a mixture of gas and tiny bits of matter, called particulate matter. The following description of particulate pollution is from the Environmental Protection Agency website, EPA AIRNOW.

"Particle pollution is a mixture of microscopic solids and liquid droplets suspended in air. This pollution, also known as particulate matter, is made up of a number of components, including acids (such as nitrates and sulfates), organic chemicals, metals, soil or dust particles, and allergens (such as fragments of pollen or mold spores).

"The size of particles is directly linked to their potential for causing health problems. Small particles less than 10 micrometers in diameter pose the greatest problems, because they can get deep into your lungs, and some may even get into your bloodstream. Exposure to such particles can affect both your lungs and your heart. Larger particles are of less concern, although they can irritate your eyes, nose, and throat.

"Small particles of concern include 'fine particles' (such as those found in smoke and haze), which are 2.5 micrometers in diameter or less; and 'coarse particles' (such as those found in wind-blown dust), which have diameters between 2.5 and 10 micrometers."

How can you tell if the air is 'bad'?

There are particulate monitors in downtown Fairbanks, Anchorage, and Juneau which are operated year round. The monitors capture the local PM2.5 levels (those particles 2.5 micrometers in diameter or less).

During the summer months, the Fairbanks North Star Borough prepares a 3-day Air Quality forecast for the Fairbanks area. The forecast is on their website (http://fnsb.us/transportation/Pages/Air-Quality.aspx ). If smoky conditions warrant, daily updates will be provided.

The Municipality of Anchorage's Air Quality hotline number is: 907-343-4899.

Further information about wildland fires, smoke, and particulates may be found below:

  • To report a wildland fire in Alaska call: 1-800-237-3633
  • Questions about wildfires?
  • Call BLM Alaska Fire Service for Fairbanks area: 907-356-5511
  • Current Wildfire Information - Division of Forestry webpage
  • Current wildland fire situation reports - from the Alaska Interagency Coordination Center
  • Fairbanks North Star Borough Air Quality info - or call 907-459-1234
  • Municipality of Anchorage Air Quality Hotline: 907-343-4899
  • Wildfire Smoke - A Guide for Public Health Officials (PDF) - An informational booklet about wildfire smoke (updated 2012).
  • Wildfire Smoke Health Information - Alaska Department of Health and Social Services
  • An explanation of EPA's Air Quality Index - EPA
  • Health Threat from Wildfire Smoke - Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
  • How Particulate Matter Affects the Way We Live & Breathe - EPA information on particulate matter
  • EPA Clean Burning Woodstoves and Fireplaces - EPA
  • Respirator Fact Sheet - National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. Note that carpentry dust masks are usually not effective against smoke particulates.