The invisible killer


Why are some people still wearing masks? I mean the fire is pretty far away and the air doesn’t smell that bad.  

One of the 500 plus structures affected by the Thomas Fire. Photo by: Ryan King

According to, the smoke produced by fires is made up of a mixture of gases and fine particles. The microscopic particles are the reason the air quality is so dangerous during and after a fire, because these particles can penetrate deep into your lungs which can cause a range of health problems.

According to the article “In Cities, It’s the Smoke, Not the Fire, That Will Get You,” by WIRED, these fine particles are so small that when they are inhaled, they are are able to go into the deepest recesses of the lungs and into the alveolar sacs, where they bypass the human body’s filtration systems and slip directly into the bloodstream.

Twitter poll from: The Cougar Press

Paper masks, surgical masks, scarves, and bandannas will not protect one’s’ lungs from the fine particles. Masks known as N-95 and P-100 respirators are known to help protect against the smoke’s particles.


People with any heart or lung diseases like asthma, emphysema, and angina, are more susceptible to fine particle penetration in their lungs. In addition to this, children and teenagers with no existing heart or lung diseases have an increased risk of being affected by these fine particles because their respiratory systems are still developing.

In a recent Twitter poll conducted by The Cougar Press, 58 percent of voters said they were “somewhat affected” by the air quality as a result of the Thomas Fire, while 21 percent of voters said they were “very affected.”