Direct Relief International, in cooperation with the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department and the city of Santa Barbara will distribute free NIOSH N-95 face masks to residents from 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday in the East Beach parking lot adjacent to the Cabrillo Pavilion Arts Center, 1118 E. Cabrillo Blvd.

Direct Relief has a limited supply of masks, so residents are asked to request only what they need if they can’t avoid outdoor exposure to the smoke generated by the Tea Fire.

“These masks are being made available to the public for free,” said Dr. Elliot Schulman, director of the county Public Health Department.

Schulman said it is critical that the masks be fitted properly on the face, so instruction will be included at the distribution site.

“It’s better to avoid exposure, particularly for those with known lung or breathing problems,” Schulman said. “But if you have to be outdoors, especially if you’re doing vigorous activity, it is wise to wear a mask to reduce exposure to inhaled wild land fire smoke.”

It is the tiny, invisible particles that get into the lungs and can cause problems, he said.