Cal OES Media Team Wearing N95 Masks During Thomas Fire

Breathe Easy with an N95 Particulate Respirator During Smokey Days

Particulate respirators/masks are the same ones worn by firefighters and healthcare workers and they can help protect lungs from harmful particles in wildfire smoke, according to the California Department of Public Health. Ordinary dust masks are not sufficient, so be sure to use N95 rated particle protective respirator.

Below are some of the various locations where you can get them if retailers are sold out.

N95 Particulate Filter Respirator availability for Camp Fire:

  • In the Sacramento area: masks will be available free of charge at all City of Sacramento fire stations (Station 16 currently is closed and will not be handing out masks.)
  • City personnel also will be handing out masks to people who are experiencing homelessness.

In Butte County:

  • Hope Center; 1950 Kitrick Ave A, Oroville, CA 95966
  • Beginning Tuesday, November 13, the location to pick up supplies will move to the Oroville Municipal Auditorium (1200 Myers Street, Oroville).

The County of Butte is offering Free N95 respirators (while supplies last)

at the locations noted below.

Free N95 Mask Locations
Free N95 Mask Locations

N95 Particulate Filter Respirators availability for Woolsey/Hill Fire:

  • Goebel Senior Adult Center – 1385 E. Janss Rd., Thousand Oaks, CA 91362
  • Thousand Oaks Teen Center – 1375 E. Janss Rd., Thousand Oaks, CA 91362
  • Rancho Santa Susana Recreation Center – 5005 Unit C Los Angeles Ave. Simi Valley, CA 93063
  • Borchard Community Center – 190 N Reino Rd., Newbury Park, CA 91320
  • Camarillo Community Center – 1605 E Burnley St., CA 93010
  • North Oxnard Public Health – 2240 E. Gonzales Rd. Oxnard CA 93036
  • South Oxnard Public health – 2500 S. “C” Street, Oxnard CA 93033
  • Channel Islands harbor Master – 3900 Pelican Way, Oxnard CA 93035
  • Las Posas Family Medical Group – 3801 Las Posas, Suite 214, Camarillo 93010
  • Sierra Vista Family Medical Clinic – 2700 E Los Angeles Ave., Simi Valley CA 93065
  • Moorpark Family Medical Clinic – 612 Spring Rd. Bld. A, Moorpark CA 93021
  • Adventist Health Simi Valley – 2975 Sycamore Dr, Simi Valley, CA 93065
  • Los Robles Regional Medical Center – 215 W. Janss Rd., Thousand Oaks, CA 91360
  • St. John’s Pleasant Valley Hospital – 2309 Antonio Av., Camarillo, CA 93010
  • St. John’s Regional Medical Center – 1600 N. Rose Av., Oxnard 93036

Respirators should also be available at evacuation centers in the City of Los Angeles:

  1. Taft Charter High School; 5461 Winnetka Ave., Woodland Hills, 91364
  2. Canoga Park Senior High School; 6850 Topanga Canyon Blvd, Canoga Park, 91303
  3. Palisades Charter High School; 15777 Bowdoin St, Pacific Palisades, 90272
  4. Pierce College; 7100 El Rancho Drive Woodland Hills, 91371

Use of respirators by the general public for protection from wildfire smoke or ash

A respirator is a device that covers your nose and mouth, fits closely to your face, and helps protect your lungs by reducing contaminants in the air you breathe. A respirator called “N95” or “P100” is the most common type for protecting you from particles in smoke or ash. They are available at hardware or home improvement stores and pharmacies.

  • The most effective way to protect yourself during wildfire emergencies is to stay indoors or limit your time outdoors when there is smoke in the air. By limiting your exposure in this way, you may not need to wear a respirator.
  • If you must be outside for extended periods of time in smoky air or in an ash- covered area, you may benefit from using a tight-fitting respirator to reduce your exposure.
  • If you are experiencing adverse effects from breathing in a smoky environment, even indoors, you may benefit from using a tight-fitting respirator.
  • If you want to wear a respirator, you should learn how to select and correctly use the respirator. This is very important for get the best protection.

Possible risks

  • Wearing a respirator can make it harder to breathe. If you have heart or lung problems, ask your doctor before using a respirator.
  • If you have difficulty breathing, get dizzy, or have other symptoms while wearing a respirator, go to a place with cleaner air and remove it.
  • Wearing a respirator, especially if it’s hot or you are physically active, can increase the risk of heat-related illness. Take breaks often. If you feel dizzy, faint, or nauseous, go to a place with cleaner air, remove the respirator, and seek medical attention.
  • Respirators do not come in sizes suitable for children. Since they would not fit well enough to provide a tight face seal, they would not be effective at reducing exposure.

How to use it

  • Select N95 or P100 filtering face piece respirators approved by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). The respirator works by capturing smoke particles in the filter material that makes up the mask as the user inhales. Any leakage around the face seal causes unfiltered air to enter the mask and be inhaled.
  • Effective use relies on selecting a size and model that will provide a tight seal between the respirator and user’s face.
  • To get a secure fit, place the mask over your nose and under your chin, with one strap placed below the ears and one strap above.
  • Throw out the mask when it gets harder to breathe through, or if the inside gets dirty.
  • N95 or P100 respirators can help to filter out particles, but they do not remove irritating chemicals contained in smoke.
  • To get the most protection from a tight-fitting respirator, users should be clean shaven in the areas where the mask seals to the face.
  • 1-strap nuisance dust masks or surgical masks with straps that go around your ears will not protect you from smoke or ash because they are not designed to seal tightly to the face.


Shawn Boyd

Shawn Boyd joined Cal OES as a public information officer in 2014 after a 20-year career in television news as a reporter, anchor and executive producer. He's a Cal State Sacramento alum and former US Navy yeoman and Air Force brat.

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