Thursday, September 17, 2020

Smoke of a Distant Fire

 Smoke of a Distant Fire

By Cathy Perkins

Wildfires continue to devastate large swaths of California, Oregon and Washington, leaving death and destruction of lives, towns, and forests behind them.

I started to open this post with bullet points, such as:

  • Climate change is real
  • Science is real

But I generally leave the politics to my blog mate, Kay.

Here at The Stiletto Gang, we try to entertain and educate. Sometimes the posts are about books and sometimes about whatever subject inspired our latest story. But sometimes, the post is simply to inform.

Today, I want to tell you about smoke and the dangers of smoke inhalation. In a burning building, smoke inhalation overwhelms most victims, but with wildfires, smoke can be a widespread, more subtle danger. While the type and amount of particles and chemicals in smoke varies depending on what’s burning, how much oxygen is available, and the burn temperature, all smoke contains carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide and particulate matter.

In very broad terms, these are the effects of those three components. Inhaling carbon monoxide decreases the body's oxygen supply. (It attaches more tightly to the red blood cell, preventing oxygen from reaching tissue in your body.) This can cause headaches, reduce alertness, and aggravate a heart condition known as angina. Fine particles can travel deeply into the respiratory tract, reaching the lungs. Inhaling fine particles can cause a variety of health effects, including respiratory irritation and shortness of breath, and can worsen medical conditions such as asthma and heart disease. During increased physical exertion, cardiovascular effects can be worsened by exposure to carbon monoxide and particulate matter. Once exposure stops, symptoms from inhaling carbon monoxide or fine particles generally diminish, but may last for a couple of days.

The CDC has a one-page information sheet that you may find interesting or helpful.

On a personal level, I’m surrounded by three major wildfires. Cold Creek to the northeast, Evans Canyon to the southeast and smoke from the Oregon fires pushing in from the south and west. So, the air quality here has been in the “very unhealthy” zone for a week. It occasionally topples over into “hazardous” territory, which basically means don’t go outside if you can help it. We’ve kept the house closed up, but inevitably smoke comes in every time we do go outside, so it’s less of a sanctuary now.

The view looking out my door: 

Yeah, there's normally a forest and a mountain visible out there. 

Staying home, limiting the social bubble, was tough enough when we could get outside and hike or golf or just sit by the river. After a week inside the house, I have even more sympathy for my friends in Brooklyn and other large cities, where “getting outside” might mean sitting on the front steps of your building. I’m also battling burning eyes, swollen sinuses, a headache and a general feeling of, can I just curl up on the couch?

Pray for rain and offer thanks to the dedicated firefighters who are slowly containing the fires.

And now I have that song as an earworm…

You left me here...

Girl your eyes…

An award-winning author of financial mysteries, Cathy Perkins writes twisting dark suspense and light amateur sleuth stories.  When not writing, she battles with the beavers over the pond height or heads out on another travel adventure. She lives in Washington with her husband, children, several dogs and the resident deer herd.  Visit her at or on Facebook 

Sign up for her new release announcement newsletter in either place.

She's hard at work on the sequel to The Body in the Beaver Pond, which was recently presented with the Claymore Award. 

1 comment:

  1. I am horrified at the disaster so many have to endure. Wishing all many breaths of fresh air soon.