By Emily Holden
Wildfire smoke had painted the sky orange last week when Sam, a Bay Area resident, plugged in his newest purchase: an air filter with a car adapter that would turn his minivan into an escape vehicle.
Sam’s daughter has an immune disorder, and with smoke from nearby fires making the air among the globe’s dirtiest, the family fled north for clearer skies.
Sam, who asked the Guardian to withhold his last name to respect his daughter’s privacy, said the attempts to protect her vulnerable lungs cost several thousand dollars. “Just the fact that we have this option available to us makes us incredibly lucky,” he said.
The family was not alone in spending significant amounts of money to mitigate the impacts of the wildfires that have raged across California this season. People across the US west, including hundreds of miles away from the blazes, reported buying air purifiers for the first time to cope with the smoke that cast a hazy glow over multiple states. The most effective air purifiers can run $200 to $500, and many sold out. Others said they had run up their air conditioning bills or paid for gas and hotels to leave the area.
“There’s a potentially infinite number of ways you can adapt – by changing your wardrobe or your eating habits or all these kinds of things,” said Amir Jina, an environmental economist at the University of Chicago.
“But any of the really effective ones that we know of, like air conditioning or air filters, they’re going to cost money. They’re going to cost quite a lot of money, in some cases.”