Skip to main content

Wildfires have become an unfortunate and regular reality for many Americans. Out here on the west coast, wildfire events are a near-annual occurrence, especially in dry areas where there is hardly any precipitation throughout the year. When water is scarce, a simple brush fire can grow to burn entire forests, especially if the fire is started in a remote area, away from civilization.

This year, the east coast of the United States is dealing with a wildfire disaster and emergency of its own this summer. Wildfires over the border in Canada have led to the northeastern United States being coated in smoke. The most jarring example of this wildfire smoke can be seen in New York City, where air quality alerts kept residents inside for several days. In an already-crowded living space, being confined to a small apartment due to smoke outside can lead to serious quality of life issues.

Then there’s car safety. One aspect of living with wildfire smoke is learning how to outfit your vehicle to cope with this natural disaster. If you have to travel during smoky conditions, here are three essential items to add to your car to keep you healthy and safe when driving through wildfire conditions.

1. Respirator masks

If you have to be outside for any period during smokey wildfire conditions, respirator masks can be a safe way to breathe without inhaling dangerous smoke. According to The Seattle Times, the best masks you can buy for smoke protection are N95 and P100 masks. These masks filter air as it passes your mouth, leaving harmful smoke and chemicals on the outside.

These masks can be easy to spot due to their design. These masks typically have two head straps. One goes below the ear, and the other goes above the ear. Due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, N95 masks are fairly easy to find, offering a great amount of protection with minimal effort. However, one thing to keep in mind is that surgical masks and those one-strap paper masks that look similar to N95 masks offer no smoke protection. Smoke and other wildfire ash particles can easily go through these masks and into your nose and mouth. Make sure you have the correct type of mask, and leave some in your car just to be safe!

2. HEPA cabin air filters

Wildfire smoke is dangerous to breathe in. Any smoke is harmful to breathe into your body, but the smoke can get overwhelming with seemingly zero relief outside during wildfire season. One way to give your body some relief is by installing a HEPA cabin air filter in your car.

Every car has a cabin air filter. This air filter keeps the air clean that comes into the cabin through your air conditioning vents. This is also one of the most overlooked maintenance items in your car. Many drivers regularly service their vehicles with oil changes and tire rotations, but the cabin air filter is rarely ever changed.

By switching to a HEPA cabin air filter like the ones detailed by Pure Flow Air, drivers can have a cabin air filter that can keep out 99.97% of all dust, ash, smoke, pollen, and other contaminants from entering their vehicle. It may seem easy to overlook, but upgrading to a better HEPA cabin air filter is an easy way to drive with healthy, clean air filling your car.

3. Fog lights

Fog lights have been installed on vehicles for years, and many higher-end trim models on dealer lots today come pre-installed with fog lights. So, what exactly makes a fog light different from regular headlights?

Motor1 explains that fog lights work separately from headlights by offering auxiliary lighting during low-visibility scenarios like fog and wildfire smoke. These fog lights are placed below headlights and are tilted low to illuminate the road below the fog. This is why fog lights can cut through foggy conditions, unlike headlights, which can simply reflect the light into your eyes. If your vehicle didn’t come with fog lights, don’t worry; plenty of aftermarket kits can add these lights to your car without much hassle.

Ultimately, all of these items are great for driving in smoky conditions. Still, it is also essential to ensure that your vehicle has all of the necessary emergency equipment you may need. Without a simple supply of food, water, clothes, and tools in your car, a set of masks, a good air filter, and fog lights can only go so far. Ensure you have an emergency kit ready to go if wildfires hit your town.

Related Roaring Wildfires Can Damage Your Vehicle Even at a Distance

Roaring Wildfires Can Damage Your Vehicle Even at a Distance