North Bay Wildfires: Protect Your Family’s Health


North Bay Wildfires: Protect Your Family’s Health

By Megan Kaun and Nichole Warwick, 10/23/2017

The North Bay Fires have dramatically increased the toxicity of our local environment. Children are particularly vulnerable. This document summarizes expert recommendations for reducing exposure & supporting health.  Please consult your health care provider for customized recommendations.


Avoid Contaminated Areas

  • Monitor air quality at
  • Keep children and pets indoors, keep windows closed when air quality poor

Protect Body from Exposure

  • Protect Your Lungs with a properly fitted mask (N95 or N100)
  • Cover your body fully and change clothes often

Clean Home Inside & Out

  • An expert in emergency restoration services can help with smoke damage
  • Wipe all hard surfaces (floors, walls, ceilings) with damp microfiber wipes
  • Pause and repeat cleaning as needed
  • Never use harsh chemicals or deodorizers, which make air quality worse
  • Wash off hard surfaces outside especially windows, porches & walkways

Maintain Indoor Air Quality

  • Run multiple HEPA air purifiers or move single unit from room to room, change filters often
  • Replace filter in HVAC system
  • Remove shoes and contaminated clothing outside
  • Bathe and wash hair before bed


Relieve Exposure Symptoms

  • Soothe throat with herbal tea, throat spray, lozenges, honey
  • Open breathing passages and calm nerves with diffused essential oils, and herbal teas, tinctures, and syrups

Build Natural Immunity

  • Eat healthy, fresh foods
  • Take probiotic supplements and fermented foods
  • AVOID inflammatory foods like sugar, fried/processed foods, and alcohol
  • Boost immunity with Vitamin C, Zinc, B vitamins, and herbal preparations

Detoxify Gently

  • Drink lots of water, take electrolytes
  • Pooping helps! Use magnesium, flax seed, and acacia fiber
  • Choose high fiber, fresh foods
  • Take warm baths with epsom salts
  • Take safe herbal supplements like activated charcoal, chlorella, etc.

Enhance Self Care Practices

  • Seek support from family, friends, and mental health care providers
  • Gentle massage, yoga, and good posture promote good circulation and endorphins for healing
  • Take time to rest & love yourself!


These house cleaning techniques will help minimize toxic dust particles resulting from wildfire smoke and ash. If your house has indoor smoke damage, consider hiring a professional, smoke remediation may be covered by your insurance company. Steam cleaning fibrous surfaces like couches and carpets, and professional ozone treatment or re-painting the walls (after cleaning and sealing) may also be needed. Cleaning outdoors prevents cross contamination.


Step 1: Vacuum EVERYTHING with a well-functioning HEPA vacuum

NEVER use a broom or non-HEPA vacuum cleaner.  These stir particles back into the air, worsening air quality.  See the Shark Rotator Professional and Consumer Reports guide (  Vacuum all surfaces (walls, ceilings, floors, etc) that came in contact with the smoke. For fibrous surfaces (carpets, couches, etc), vacuum a surface multiple times in multiple directions.  Empty your vacuum outside.

Step 2: Wipe down all hard surfaces with damp microfiber wipes

Use a dilute solution of water and dish soap, Citrasolv, or Benefect’s Atomic Cleaner, a small squirt per gallon. Reusable microfiber wipes should be washed in hot water with laundry detergent.  Attach microfiber wipes to a mop to clean floors, walls, and ceilings. Avoid TSP, bleach, and harsh chemicals as they add toxicity to your home.

Step 3: Clean outside

Use a shop vacuum or broom to remove ash from hard surfaces. Wash down everything especially pathways, decks and  porches where ash has accumulated. Wash down the surface of the house especially around doors and windows to prevent cross contamination. Always wear eye protection and an N95 or N100 mask and remove outer clothes before entering the house.

Step 4: Pause and Repeat Steps 1, 2 and 3 as Necessary

Cleaning will stir up dust. Pause one day for airborne dust to resettle. Heavily smoked spaces may require multiple cycles of Step 1/2. A test is to leave, run the heater for 8 hours, and return. If smell persists clean again or consider professional help. A test for clothes is to put them in a garbage bag, bring to a smoke free area, and open bag to smell for smoke. Household items (furniture, rugs, etc.) may need to be removed from the home and cleaned separately.


Outdoor contamination may continue for a long time due to construction activities.

Run HEPA air purifiers in each room where you spend time.

A HEPA air purifier can clean a single room but does not have a far reach.  Move HEPA purifiers from room to room for better coverage and change filters frequently in heavily smoked areas.

Remove shoes and contaminated clothes before entering home.

Soot and ash will attach to shoes and clothing.  Remove shoes and outer layers outside.

Continue routine cleaning with HEPA vacuum and microfiber wipes. 

Regular cleaning will help keep dust and toxin levels low indoors. SUPPORT HEALTH WITH DIET, SUPPLEMENTS, AND HABITS

Relieve Exposure Symptoms

  • Soothe throat: Throat Coat Tea, Throat Quencher Spray, Kids Throat TLC, Marshmallow Root, Slippery Elm, Aloe, Fennel, Sinus Oil
  • Open breathing passages/calm the cough:  Lavender essential oil (diffuse or put in mask, honey, lozenges, Cough Quiet, Kids Cough, Calm Breathing Tea, Healthy Lungs Tea, Old Indian Wild Cherry Syrup, Lung Expectorant Tincture, Serious Cough Tincture, Herbal Respiratory Relief, Calm Breathing Tea, Deep Lung Tincture, Clear Lungs Capsules, Breathe Mushrooms, Kick-Ass Sinus, Mental Clarity essential oil
  • Calm nerves: Chamomile tea, Kids Calm, Stress Recovery Essential Oil, Calm Tincture, Rescue Remedy, Five Flower Essence, Mental Clarity Essential Oil, Stress Recovery essential oil, Calm Calm Tincture, Post-Trauma Essence, Nervous System Tonic, Relax Smelling Salts

Build Natural Immunity

  • Probiotic supplements/fermented foods: 
  • Boost immunity: Vitamin C, Zinc, Activated B vitamins, Daily Immune Mushroom capsules, Stamets 7 Mushroom capsules, Astragalus tea, Reishi tea/capsules, Synergy Green Powder, Adaptive Strategy tincture

Detoxify Gently

  • Naturally detoxifying foods: Broccoli, cauliflower, kale, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, collard greens, spinach, beets, asparagus, apricots, plums, pumpkins, squash, and sweet potatoes
  • Safe herbal detoxification: Herbal Detox Tincture, Lymph Mover Tincture, Seaweed Bath, Good Samaritan essential oil, activated charcoal, chlorella, turmeric, milk thistle/artichoke capsules

Emotional Support for Children

  • Supporting Your Child Through The Wildfire Disaster:
  • Talking to Children About Disasters:
  • Talking With Kids About News:
  • Children’s Book: Once I Was Very Very Very Scared by Chandra Ghosh Ippen:
  • Art and creativity promote relaxation and offer children an opportunity to express themselves and their experiences. Put on some music, dance, play, make art, make music, sing, get creative. Creativity heals.


Megan Kaun is a civil and environmental engineer, living in the Hidden Valley Estates neighborhood in Santa Rosa, which was mostly destroyed by the Tubbs fire.  Her home survived, but the neighborhood is devastated.  Prior to the fires, Megan was working on a number of initiatives in Sonoma County to reduce toxic exposure risks to the community, in collaboration with Sonoma County Conservation Action (SCCA), Better Beginnings, Santa Rosa School District, Santa Rosa Water, and County of Sonoma Agencies.  She also works on landscape and park design to decrease maintenance costs and reduce use of synthetic herbicides.

Nichole Warwick is a mother, psychologist and educator working to create a healthy and sustainable schools initiative in Sonoma County. She works collaboratively with Daily Acts and the Jonas Family Fund as an Environmental Health Program Innovator, researching the impacts of environmental toxics on children’s health and collaborating with experts in the field to support healthier and more sustainable schools in Sonoma County.  Nichole currently serves on the Ceres Community Project’s Board of Directors as Secretary and Chair of the Youth Leadership Committee. She is passionate about children and the environment, and she devotes her life to nurture and protect both.


This document was developed quickly as a guide for Sonoma County residents looking for ways to protect themselves in the aftermath of October 2017 wildfires.  We are looking for opportunities to expand and improve these guidelines.

Contact information:

Megan Kaun, [email protected], Cell: (773) 677-1639

Nichole Warwick, [email protected], Daily Acts: (707) 789-9664

Indoor cleaning and air quality contributions from Dave Osborn, expert in residential and commercial emergency restoration services ([email protected] 707-337-7878) and John Banta, CIH (Certified Industrial Hygienist), co-author of Prescriptions for a Healthy Home. Full text on cleaning recommendations:

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