Santa Barbara County Air Pollution Control District (APCD) and Santa Barbara County Public Health Department are urging county residents to plan for poor air quality conditions caused by future wildfire smoke.

Smoke and ash from wildfires contain small particles known as particulate matter that can harm the lungs and heart. Particulate matter can cause coughing, wheezing, difficulty breathing, chest pain, nausea, and in severe instances, death. People with heart or lung disease, seniors, children, and pregnant women are especially sensitive to smoke.

The best protection against wildfire smoke is to stay indoors as much as possible when smoke is present. Take the following steps to ensure safe indoor air quality:

Choosing and Using an Air Purifier

» Pick a HEPA (High-Efficiency Particulate Air) purifier to reduce particulate matter indoors by 90 percent. These can be purchased at hardware stores or online retailers.

» Make sure the device doesn’t create ozone. To find a list of safe options, visit

» HEPA purifiers come in various makes and models, suitable for different room sizes.

» Use the purifier in a room where you spend a lot of time, like a bedroom. HEPA purifiers for an average-sized bedroom cost about $75.

   · Check windows and doors and make sure the room is sealed tightly so smoke from the outdoors does not get pulled inside.

   · Replace the filter as directed in the owner’s manual. Filters need to be replaced more frequently if used during a wildfire.

Making Your Own Air Purifier

» Assembling a DIY version of an air purifier can be a more affordable option, with materials costing about $40. The following DIY version has been shown to reduce harmful particulate matter indoors similarly to a HEPA purifier.

To make your own: Use tape to attach a 20-inch-by-20-inch MERV-rated air filter (similar to one used for an HVAC system) to the back of a 20-inch-by-20-inch box fan. Attaching to the back of the fan creates a better seal. Use a filter with a MERV rating of 13.

   · Check the filter for the direction of the air flow, marked on the side of the filter.

   · Check windows and doors and make sure the room is sealed tightly so smoke from the outdoors does not get pulled inside.

   · Replace the filter more frequently if used during a wildfire.

   · As needed, disassemble the box fan to wipe away any accumulated dirt.

   · For safety, follow these precautions: Don’t leave the device unattended; turn off the device while sleeping; when the fan is modified in this way, use the device as an air cleaner, not as fan to cool your home.

Minimizing Sources of Indoor Air Pollution

» In addition to using a HEPA air purifier, follow these recommendations:

   · If advised to stay inside, keep windows and doors shut and sealed tightly.

   · If temperatures are high and there is no way to keep the home cool with windows and doors shut, consider temporarily relocating to an area with better air quality until conditions improve.

   · Upgrade filter in HVAC system to a MERV filter with a MERV rating of at least 13. Check with an HVAC professional to see what MERV rating your HVAC system can handle to ensure proper functionality.

   · Do not smoke, and don’t burn firewood, candles or incense in the house.

   · Use a range hood while cooking, especially when using a gas stove.

   · Consider using professional services for a blower door test to detect air leaks. This service can help you know how to properly seal your home.

During wildfires, there are ways to stay updated on local air quality conditions: Sign up to receive air quality alerts from APCD and Public Health at Check hourly air quality conditions and daily air forecasts at