Two-Day Distribution Provides 35,000 Particulate Masks

Direct Relief International’s rapid establishment of distribution sites coordinated with local public officials provided a total of 35,000 free protective masks to local residents as of July 5.

To help the public avoid the harmful effects of inhaling smoke and ash from the Gap Fire—a key concern as the burned area rose to more than 9,500 acres—Direct Relief staff and volunteers handed out the NIOSH N-95 particulate respirators at Goleta’s Camino Real Marketplace from 12 to 3 pm on the second distribution day.

The easy-to-wear masks are recommended by California public health officials to protect against respiratory problems caused by wildfire smoke and ash, and are particularly important for persons with respiratory conditions, including asthma.

More than 1,200 firefighters from around the state are battling the blaze, which has been burning since the evening of July 1 and is 35 percent contained. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger visited the area on Saturday to assess the situation, which he placed under a state of emergency on July 3. Working with local authorities from the County of Santa Barbara and the City of Goleta, Direct Relief immediately tapped its inventory of masks in response to the fire, whose flames and smoke were clearly visible from its headquarters.

Direct Relief has purchased 10,000 more masks to replenish inventory and have ready if needed. According to today’s reports, evacuation orders in much of the Goleta Valley have been lifted as the fire burns north and west, away from more heavily populated areas.

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