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Northwest residents face new realities from far-away wildfires

Wednesday, August 14, 2019by  PEMCO Insurance

The impact of wildfire season on Northwest residents and visitors extends far beyond the flames themselves, according to a new poll from PEMCO Mutual Insurance. The Seattle-based insurer found that as summer heats up, many Northwest residents are bracing themselves for the hazy smoke left lingering in urban and rural areas caused by wildfires, in some cases, burning hundreds of miles away.

The PEMCO poll found that 59% of residents across Washington and Oregon say that in the past few years they've been bothered by smoke or poor air quality resulting from wildfires in other parts of the region – and nearly three out of four respondents (71%) think a decrease in air quality during peak wildfire season is a new reality that is here to stay.

 "As wildfires become more intense, it's clear that people across the Northwest aren't just worried about the real threat of fire to the safety of their homes or belongings; they're concerned about the impact to many other aspects of their lives – from their health to their travel plans," said PEMCO vice president of claims, customer service and sales Harris Clarke.

When wildfire smoke descends on Northwest communities, half (51%) say that it negatively impacts their ability to exercise or generally spend time outside, and about one-third (36%) say the smoky air puts their ability to breathe and overall well-being at risk.

Besides health implications, many residents also say that wildfires' summer haze takes a toll on their comfort at home, too – 40% say that the air quality inside their home diminishes or that keeping their home's windows shut due to the smoke makes it uncomfortably warm indoors.

For many, wildfire flames hit much closer to home. Among those who live east of the mountains, the poll also finds that about one in four residents (24%) in inland parts of the region say that in addition to poor air quality, they've experienced a direct threat to their property due to wildfire.

No matter residents' proximity to fire, safety officials recommend taking the following actions to protect yourself and your loved ones from wildfire smoke, especially children and certain adults who are more likely to feel the effects of poor air quality:

  • Keep an eye out for local air quality reports and visibility guides.
  • Avoid unnecessary outdoor activities when health warnings are in effect.
  • Keep the air inside your house as clean as possible by closing windows and doors.
  • Do not rely on paper masks to protect your lungs.
  • Consult your doctor if you have a chronic heart or lung condition, such as asthma.  

For a complete summary of PEMCO's poll results, including previously released data on wildfires' impact, visit where you'll find responses collected by FBK Research of Seattle in January 2019.


About the PEMCO Insurance Northwest Poll

PEMCO Insurance commissioned this independent survey, conducted by FBK Research of Seattle, that asked Washington and Oregon residents questions about driving habits and attitudes toward current Northwest issues. The sample size, 600 respondents in Washington and 600 in Oregon, yields an accuracy of +/- 4.1 percent at the 95 percent confidence level. In other words, if this study were conducted 100 times, in 95 instances the data will not vary by more than the associated error range.

About PEMCO Insurance

PEMCO Insurance is the Defender of Your Northwest, providing auto, home, renters and boat coverage. We are consistently recognized for outstanding service, employee expertise and social impact. Our Mutual Good programs raise the achievement levels for youth in education; build stronger, greener environments; and increase safety at home, on the road and at play. Our mission: Free our communities to worry less and live more.

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