Smoke events can occur with little warning; people impacted by wildfire smoke should protect themselves — especially children, the elderly, pregnant women and people with heart or respiratory conditions. These sensitive groups are advised to limit outdoor activities and consider leaving the impacted area, especially when the Air Quality Index (AQI) reaches ‘Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups.’ Even healthy people may experience symptoms in smoky conditions or after exposure. Pets also can be affected by unhealthy air and should be brought indoors, if possible.
Monitoring Air Pollution
California maintains extensive air monitoring networks, with more than 250 monitors collecting data on a wide range of pollutants. Data from the network combined with air modeling tools makes it possible to track our progress in cleaning the air, inform residents of regional air quality, and identify the most effective actions needed to meet health-based air standards.
New monitoring technologies (air sensors and satellite measurements) offer promising tools for providing additional air quality data in areas that do not have traditional air monitors.
CARB and local air districts constantly monitor criteria pollutant ambient air concentrations in real time for the purpose of providing health advisory information on air quality. Location-specific data are posted online several times per day.
During wildfire events, CARB and others deploy additional monitors to measure PM2.5 so the public has information to make health-based decisions and reduce exposure. CARB does not routinely analyze this data for trends, emission inventory, or other purposes.
Air monitoring equipment and the resulting data collected from wildfire smoke have proven to be a reliable, accurate assessment and indication of particulate concentration in communities downwind from wildfire. These monitors measure the mass of particles in the air. While other pollutants are present in smoke such as carbon monoxide, oxides of nitrogen and volatile organic compounds, particulate matter from wildfire smoke is the pollutant of greatest concern to human health. Portable particulate monitors are especially useful when deployed in communities affected by wildfire smoke.
While air monitors are located strategically to assess air quality in communities impacted by wildfire, individuals can also use their senses to make decisions. If you see or smell smoke and you know you are sensitive to its effects, take precautionary steps to avoid exposure.