Air QualityWildfires

Air Quality Specialists Jennifer Webb and Jon Holmes On Wildfires & Air Quality in Let’s Talk Clean Air Podcast

By May 8, 2024 No Comments
10 minutes to read

With various large wildfires across the country burning through the winter and into the early spring, 2024’s wildfire season is off to an early start and is sure to continue into the summer as higher temperatures and longer droughts in some regions of the United States and Canada create the ideal conditions for uncontained fires. As these blazes rage on, Camfil air quality specialists Jennifer Webb and Jon Holmes are urging the public to pay close attention to their surrounding air quality.

Webb and Holmes, both with years of experience in monitoring air quality and optimizing solutions, explain the effects of wildfires on air quality and the best ways to protect your health from the dangers of being exposed to wildfire smoke pollutants. 

2024 Wildfires in the United States

According to the National Interagency Coordination Center, there were 56,580 separate wildfires in the United States in 2023, burning a total of 2,693,910 of forest throughout the year. Although last year’s wildfires burned across less land than in previous years, significant declines in ambient air quality impacted people across the country during and after major wildfire events throughout most of the year, particularly in the summer. 

In 2024, there are currently 10 large uncontained wildfires burning 22,372 acres in five states (four fires in West Virginia, three in Virginia, and one each in Oklahoma, Georgia, and Kentucky). There have been 5,260 wildfires so far this year, which sits below the 10-year average of 9,629 wildfires by this point in the year. However, after the wildfires in Texas this February, including the largest wildfire in Texas history, 1,659,645 have been burned, compared to the year-to-date 10-year average of 474,563; total acres burned as of early April 2024 already total more than half of the acres burned in all of 2023. 

As of January 1, over 3,400 wildfires have been attributed to human activity, scorching approximately 1.6 million acres. In contrast, lightning sparked 10 wildfires, affecting around 388 acres. Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas, North Carolina, and California are home to the most human-caused wildfires. 

Why Is Wildfire Smoke a Health Concern? 

Inhaling wildfire smoke harms your body. If you live in the United States, it is likely that you have recently experienced the discomfort that wildfire smoke causes to some degree: stinging eyes, difficulty breathing, burning in your throat, difficulty concentrating, dizziness, and more. 

Though such discomfort is temporary and may not cause any lasting damage, exposure to wildfire smoke can be extremely detrimental to your health. 

Tiny PM2.5 particles can deeply penetrate the lungs and bloodstream. Even smaller ozone gas molecules can enter cells and major organs, leading to irreversible harm; the EPA refers to ozone as “sunburn for the lungs” for this reason. Pollutants from wildfire smoke can lead to severe complications, particularly with repeated short-term exposures or chronic exposure to wildfire pollutants. 

The Interagency Wildfire Air Quality Response Program and similar initiatives were established to evaluate, communicate, and mitigate health risks from wildfire smoke. The primary tool for assessing exposure risk is the Air Quality Index (AQI).

READ MORE: How to Improve Indoor Air Quality in Areas Affected by Wildfires 

Deep-Dive into the Impact of Wildfires on Air Quality & How to Stay Healthy During Wildfire Season

In episode 36 of the Let’s Talk Clean Air Podcast, air quality specialists Jon Holmes and Jennifer Webb provide insights into solutions for wildfire-related pollution, covering:

  • How climate change impacts wildfires:  Longer droughts, rising temperatures, fire containment strategies, and how they’ve led to longer, more extreme wildfires in recent years.
  • What makes wildfire smoke harmful:  The two main categories of pollutants found in wildfire smoke, the effects of each, and how to target them with air filters. 
  • The EPA’s six criteria pollutants:  The prevalence of ozone, particulate matter, carbon monoxide, lead, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen dioxide in wildfire smoke, when those pollutants become dangerous, and how they affect the Air Quality Index (AQI). 
  • Personal restrictions and the Air Quality Index:  How wildfires change everyday life. 
  • Actions to improve indoor air quality during wildfire season:  What air quality industry experts do to protect themselves and their families to stay safe when air quality is affected by wildfire smoke and how to keep yourself healthy indoors. 
  • How air quality affects the workforce:  The economic impact of wildfires on the workforce for both employees and employers due to losses in productivity, and what can be done to address it.
  • Air filter maintenance during wildfire season:  Filter replacement schedule changes and when to invest in a higher-capacity air filter. 
  • Learning about AQI and IAQ:  Steps you can take to learn about air quality in your area and more steps to protect yourself from poor outdoor air quality.
  • Becoming a Chief Airgonomics Officer: How to join the initiative to be a “Voice of Clean Air,” and become an advocate in your organization for a healthier and happier workplace.  Learn more here: 

Listen to the full podcast here: Let’s Talk Clean Air | Protection Against Harmful Wildfire Smoke

About Camfil Clean Air Solutions

For more than half a century, Camfil has been helping people breathe cleaner air. As a leading manufacturer of premium clean air solutions, we provide commercial and industrial systems for air filtration and air pollution control that improve worker and equipment productivity, minimize energy use, and benefit human health and the environment. We firmly believe that the best solutions for our customers are the best solutions for our planet, too. That’s why every step of the way – from design to delivery and across the product life cycle – we consider the impact of what we do on people and the world around us. Through a fresh approach to problem-solving, innovative design, precise process control, and a strong customer focus, we aim to conserve more, use less, and find better ways – so we can all breathe easier.

The Camfil Group is headquartered in Stockholm, Sweden, and has 30​ manufacturing sites, six R&D centers, local sales offices in 35+ countries, and about 5,600 employees and growing. We proudly serve and support customers in a wide variety of industries and communities across the world. To discover how Camfil USA can help you to protect people, processes, and the environment, visit us at 



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Lynne Laake 

Camfil USA Air Filters 

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