What You Need to Know: Wildfires and Air Quality Index

As the devastating wildfires and Air Quality Index (AQI) in the West Coast of the USA continue to increase, America is doing the best they can to counteract this. The thick, black smoke that is being produced by these wildfires is having a significant impact on the region’s Air Quality Index readings. So much so, America’s West Coast currently has one of the worst air quality readings in the entire world.

The damage caused by these fires is simply staggering – enough to make these wildfires the worst that the country has seen for almost two decades, according to scientists. In this article, we will be providing readers with more information about the wildfires, with particular focus on their impact on air quality. We will also go into an explanation of what AQI is, how it has been affected by these fires, and what we can do about it.

West Coast Wildfires and Air Quality Index

In a previous blog post, we spoke about how huge fires, covering millions of acres of land, have been raging in the West Coast of America for weeks. We outlined the impact that the fires are having on air pollution and the inadvertent protection that the current COVID-19 pandemic is providing against these fumes. By wearing masks that can filter out fine particles - which many of us are legally obligated to do at the moment - we are far less likely to be breathing in the harmful toxins produced by this smoke.

Expanding on this principle, we wanted to provide a bit more detail about the correlation between wildfire and AQI. AQI (which stands for the Air Quality Index) is a measurement of an area’s air quality. This reading takes place on a daily basis and provides key information about the levels of different pollutants in the air.

What is AQI?

The Air Quality Index (AQI) is an index for reporting daily air quality. It simply tells you how clean or polluted the air by dividing it into several categories.

Air Quality Index (AQI) Values

Levels of Health Concern


When the AQI is in this range: ..air quality conditions are: ...as symbolized by this colour:
0 to 50 Good Green
51 to 100 Moderate Yellow
101 to 150 Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups Orange
151 to 200 Unhealthy Red
201 to 300 Very Unhealthy Purple
301 to 500 Hazardous Maroon
Source: epa.gov

Each category defines a different level of a health concern as shown below:

  • "Good" AQI is 0 to 50. Air quality is considered satisfactory, and air pollution poses little or no risk.
  • "Moderate" AQI is 51 to 100. Air quality is acceptable; however, for some pollutants, there may be a moderate health concern for a very small number of people. For example, people who are unusually sensitive to ozone may experience respiratory symptoms.
  • "Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups" AQI is 101 to 150. Although the general public is not likely to be affected at this AQI range, people with lung disease, older adults and children are at greater risk from exposure to ozone.
  • "Unhealthy" AQI is 151 to 200. Everyone may begin to experience some adverse health effects, and members of the sensitive groups may experience more serious effects.
  • "Very Unhealthy" AQI is 201 to 300. This would trigger a health alert signifying that everyone may experience more serious health effects.
  • "Hazardous" AQI is greater than 300. This would trigger a health warning of emergency conditions. The entire population is more likely to be affected.

How Do Wildfires and Air Quality Index Related?

As you would expect, the huge amount of smoke being produced by these wildfires is having a massive impact on the AQI of the West Coast of America. Not only that, but AQI readings in countries across the Atlantic Ocean have picked up a rise in pollutants as a result of these fires. These pollutants include particulate matter (PM) such as PM2.5, PM10, PM0.3, as well as carbon dioxide and soot.

You might have even seen how wildfires cause the sky to turn red or orange. This rather post-apocalyptic phenomenon is caused by the smoke particles that these fires produce. The change in sky colour occurs because these smoke particles scatter certain wavelengths of visible light. So, these smoke particles scatter shorter wavelength colours (like blue, yellow and green light from the sun), and allow longer wavelength colours (like red and orange) to remain visible in the sky.

This example provides a clear insight into the extent to which these wildfires have caused a huge spike in the readings of numerous pollutants in AQI readings across America, and even the rest of the world.

Keep Yourself Informed

Although the situation may be rather dire right now, there are still things that we can do. Firstly, ensure that you keep informed about wildfires and air quality. That way, you are in the best position to protect yourself and your family. You can do this by regularly checking the air quality forecast for your area through the WAQI website. This innovative resource gives you access to real-time AQI measurements across the world. You can then zoom in to your specific region to get more detailed information about the air quality near you. Currently, the worst-hit areas in America are the fires in California, Oregon and Washington State.

Key Fire and Air Pollutants Safety: Wear a Mask

In terms of air pollution, areas along the USA’s West Coast like Quincy, Garberville, Springville and Calistoga have reached ‘very unhealthy’ and even ‘hazardous’ levels of air pollution. You can keep up-to-date with the latest news and information regarding these West Coast wildfires on websites like The New York Times, or the CNN News Desk. By following these news channels, you can keep informed about the progression of any fires near you.

Another key fire and air pollutants safety step that you can take is purchasing a mask that can protect you, particularly from the extremely toxic PM2.5. You can see how this PM2.5 spread out along the West Coast Area from the map below.

Cambridge Mask - Wildfires and Air Quality Index Interactive Map - West Coast the USA

Source: waqi.info

At Cambridge Mask Co, we have utilised the latest technology, in order to create masks that protect wearers from PM2.5, as well preventing you from breathing in other harmful pollutants, such as PM10 and PM0.3.

PM2.5 is a particularly dangerous pollutant, which is closely linked to wildfire smoke. You can also see similar smoke from the coal-burning process. Exposure to high levels of PM2.5 can cause a number of health problems such as: including lung disease, diminished heart function and asthmatic attacks.

By wearing our mask, we can assure you that you will be protected (find out more about our Filter Technology here) from this hazardous smoke and viruses. At the moment, our best-seller PRO range mask in colour black (Churchill) and navy blue (Admiral) is ready to keep you and your loved ones safe. For every purchase above $30 within the USA, you will also get free shipping.

We would strongly recommend taking this precautionary measure, particularly if you live in close proximity to any of the areas that have been affected by these wildfires.