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Smoke from Fires

Cal Fire map of Butte fire 11/9/18 2pmFires happen with increasing frequency in our state due to climate change, reduced budgets to prepare for fires and to fight them. Therefore it is important to know what to do if smoke from a fire, which could be hundreds of miles away, reaches us here. Of course, if the fire is at the station, get out and call 911 if this has not already been done.

This is from the Alert system on main campus issued for the recent Butte fire:

At this time, all members of the campus community are encouraged to take the following common-sense steps to address their personal health and comfort:

  • Limit strenuous outdoor activity where possible.
  • For more susceptible populations including older adults, children, and those with pulmonary/respiratory conditions, minimize time spent outdoors.
  • When indoors, keep windows and doors closed.
  • In vehicles, use air-recirculation mode.
  • Drink plenty of water to help minimize potential irritation.

For individuals who may experience smoke-related health issues, we recommend consulting with one’s primary healthcare provider.



  • Minimize outdoor activities and keep the children indoors as much as possible. Parents who have specific health concerns should consult their child’s pediatrician for further advice.


  • Individuals experiencing smoke-related distress symptoms should contact Vaden Health Center for further consultation.


PIs/Supervisors should review their group’s work activities and apply the following best practices:

  • Postponing prolonged or strenuous outdoor work.
  • Avoiding building-to-building foot travel where possible by scheduling video/phone conferencing, etc.
  • Keeping an open workplace dialogue, ensuring any related concerns and questions are communicated.

Stanford University continues to monitor local air quality levels to assess the potential impact on personnel and operations.



Given that the above precautions are taken, masks are not recommended at this time for healthy individuals. Using respirator masks can make it harder to breathe, which may worsen existing medical conditions.  For sensitive populations, including those with lung or heart disease or who are chronically ill, recommend consulting with their personal health care provider before using any mask.  Further considerations regarding mask use can be found at: