How I’m Surviving the Fires: A Product Guide

Eagle Creek Fire burning over highway

I have asthma, so the smoke billowing from the nearby Eagle Creek Fire (and others!) is very serious for me. I’m not leaving the house unless I really need to. Except that time yesterday when a neighbor said they had 6 pounds of free plums and I was on them like a colony of sugar ants. For the past few days it has been raining ash upon my my home. Today, it looks just as smoky but at least our hellscape doesn’t involve “snow flurries” of doom.

For when I do go outside I’m using an N95 particulate respirator mask, as recommended by this guide. (P100 is another good number to look for, as well as any N numbers over 95.) The one I’m using has a valve which allows me to breathe out through the valve rather than through the filter. It makes my face a little less humid and breathing a bit quicker. These masks are available at most hardware stores, but are probably sold out by now. I got my mask at Home Depot yesterday, but they didn’t have many left. Here are a few other Amazon listings of N95 particulate masks. I’ve chosen to show only ones with valves, but the ones without are very slightly cheaper. They seem to only be sold on Amazon in packs of 10 or more. Be a good citizen and pass your extras out to those in need with breathing problems.

I’m lucky to have two window air conditioning units keeping the house cool. They recirculate air so I’m not bringing in smoke by using them. In addition, I’m using an air purifier with a HEPA filter. I read some reviews and purchased this Coway model when I became ill after the last time Portland became a scarlet-sun zone of misery. I’ve never owned an air purifier before, so I can’t tell you how it compares to others, but I’m really grateful for it. I love you, little savior box. I’m naming it Connie for Connie the Coway. Connie’s biggest problem is that it hates my partner’s cooking and its sensor light turns an angry red.

The Eagle Creek Fire is getting all the attention, but let me introduce its little sibling: the East Crater Fire. Labor Day weekend, my partner and I found a beautiful and secluded meadow camping spot near one of the Basin Lakes in Indian Heaven. On Sunday we heard the first human voices we had heard in two days. Three hikers came to sit near our lake and admire the view. We asked them if they needed a spot to camp, because we knew of a few good places. No. They were just day hiking and didn’t we see that giant plume of smoke behind us?

We turned around and yep, look at that: a wild fire just a few miles from out camp site. We packed quickly and left.

This is footage my partner, Eric Drechsel, took of us bugging out. This fire would become known as the East Crater Fire (which is different from the Indian Creek Fire which has been burning since the Fourth of July and with which the Eagle Creek Fire has now merged).

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