Adapting to Changing Wildfires: Part One

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Home Forums Campfire Editor’s Roundtable Adapting to Changing Wildfires: Part One

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  • #3681271
    Backpacking Light


    Locale: Rocky Mountains

    In the first part of a two-part series, Rex Sanders runs through the most common dangers associated with wildfires – and what you can do about them.




    Thanks. That chart comparing the last 20 years with the 20 from 1926-1945 (not including Alaska!) is really eye opening.

    James J
    BPL Member


    We live in the SF Bay Area, so our region was inundated with smoke for the better part of a month starting mid-August: first the LNU/CZU/SCU fire complexes started after the lightning storm, and then followed by more smoke from the fires in the Sierra Nevada, northern coastal range, and Oregon.

    We didn’t want to sit indoors for a full month… We found that using a respirator that fits seems to make a world of difference.  The outdoor AQI could be 300 with a strong smoke smell.  But we could still hike for hours in our local East Bay parks, without really smelling smoke, or experiencing the symptoms we normally would, like sore throat, headaches, and so on.  Temporarily removing the respirator and then continuing to hike would cause noticeable problems, proving that they were indeed very helpful.

    We used reusable elastomeric units, such as the 3M 6500QL series, with P100 filters.  Many possible filter options exist; the choice right now is often dictated by availability.  The “QL” signifies “quick lock” and it’s a handy way to temporarily remove the respirator without unfastening everything, such as when drinking water or eating a snack.

    As an added bonus, this is the best face covering possible for protecting against COVID-19.

    Monty Montana
    BPL Member


    Locale: Rocky Mountains

    Enjoyed your article!  Back in the day I worked as a Hot Shot based out of the Flathead NF; we were also known as the IRFS (Inter Regional Fire Suppression) crew and also – wait for it – smoke eaters.  And eat a lot of smoke we did!  During those days the FS didn’t supply us with goggles or face masks or any of that sissy stuff that today’s crews get… we just cowboyed up and got ‘er done.  The worst smoke, hands down, was when the beargrass was burning, giving off a thick white smoke that didn’t drift up and was so acrid that my eyes would tear-up to the point that I couldn’t see and my throat felt like I’d belted down a swaller o’ bleach or something.  But I’m not complaining.  I heard that fighting fire in a forest thick with poison ivy could cause ya to jump off the fireline altogether.

    Rex Sanders
    BPL Member


    Wildfire smoke may carry ‘mind-bending’ amounts of fungi and bacteria, scientists say

    Story in the LA Times, based on a Science journal article:

    “When wildfires roar through a forest and bulldozers dig into the earth to stop advancing flames, they may be churning more into the air than just clouds of dust and smoke, scientists say.”

    “In September, Kobziar, a former firefighter, used a drone to capture samples of the air over Idaho when it was inundated with smoke from fires in Eastern Washington and Oregon. She then placed the samples in a petri dish, added some food that microbes like to eat and waited to see what would happen.”

    “Even a couple hundred miles away from the source of the smoke, it was still significant,” Kobziar said. “We’re still trying to isolate all the things we found.”

    “… up until now, the connection between microbes and wildfires has been anecdotal — such as the tendency for wildland firefighters to get sick with Valley fever after working on an incident.”

    “We have more questions than answers at this point,” Thompson said


    If you wear disposable masks while backpacking, is that BPW, TPW, or FSO weight?

    — Rex

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