No, we aren’t going to get ‘toxic rain’ from the #Campfire smoke

See update below from person who ade the social media post-Anthony

I’ve been asked to write this, because this silly fear mongering keeps making the rounds on social media.

It has about the same level of sophistication as the disproved idea that “chemtrails” are raining poison on us from the skies, and comes from an uneducated set of premises cobbled together.

The #CampFire as seen on November 8th, 2018, captured by Landsat8. Note that this was the period when the most toxic smoke was being produced, due to buildings and vehicles burning and it was blown to the southwest that day. Since then, the fire line is mostly in wildland areas burning trees and brush and the original toxic smoke has long since dissipated and blown to sea.

Here’s the straight facts.

  1. Yes, it is going to rain in the areas devastated by the #Campfire. Yes, that will cause some problems such as possible flash flooding and ash runoff into creeks.
  2. Most of the really toxic smoke from the fire happened during the first two days when structures and vehicles were burning, which had fuel, plastics, household chemicals, and other substances mixed in. That smoke has either dissipated from the atmosphere or has already been blown out to sea. It doesn’t remain suspended over the fire area. See the image above of the smoke plume, all of the most toxic smoke was blown to the southwest.
  3. The existing fire line is well outside city limits and burning trees and brush, rather than buildings and automobiles. The current smoke we are experiencing is no worse that what you’d get from a wood stove or a fire you make while camping.
  4. Due to the fact that the temperature inversion capping smoke in the valley floor the past week finally dissipated yesterday, air quality in Chico and surrounding areas has dramatically improved and is now at 147 as of this writing. Source. Even if there was still “toxic smoke” from the original time remaining in the area, there would be little of it to be precipitated out with rain.

Even better, the forecast suggests that by the time we get rain, the particulate level will be even lower.

When the rains come, it won’t take long for the particulates (smoke particles) to be washed out of the air. The air will be clean and safe to breathe. It won’t become toxic water, neither acidic, or poison. There’s just too little pollutants per volume of water to be a health risk.

There’s no danger from rain after a wildfire, and anyone who says there is doesn’t know what they are talking about. Even Snopes agrees.

Please share this widely to fight ignorance and fear.

h/t to Laurie Maloney


Update: via email, from Chris Berry.

Hey Anthony, thanks for the information. I realized my error yesterday and deleted my post completely.

Unfortunately, I had retyped bits from a post I read a few days prior, and obviously didn’t take the time to check into it as I should have. I was going to hunt for that post to reference it but didn’t have the time to do it at the moment. A friend asked to make the post public, and next thing I know I have over 3k shares and then saw I was wrong, and deleted the post.

I’m not a member of the group that you shared your post in, but was hoping you may do me the favor of copying and pasting this message in there? If it wouldn’t be too much trouble I’d appreciate it. Thank you sir, and thank you for providing the correct information.

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November 20, 2018 9:11 am

The toxic scare list inadvertently forgot to instruct them to run around their car three times while waving their arms over their heads.

Also, don’t forget to light the arsenic filled candles while doing the chants. I recall years ago hearing about Californians routinely going to the Getchell Mine to dig orpiment to put in candles. Nice…and natural

Steven Fraser
Reply to  ResourceGuy
November 20, 2018 3:30 pm

yes, the ‘fire drill’ 🙂

November 20, 2018 9:19 am

Problem with the rain is if it’s heavy enough it will wash away the topsoil and make recovery much slower.

Reply to  Timbotoo
November 20, 2018 10:02 am

You’ll be surprised. Forest fires aren’t exactly unprecedented. There are lots of plants and animals that have been waiting for this opportunity. This is how the largest forest fire in recent years in Scandinavia looked two years later:

November 20, 2018 9:19 am

Some stuff sort of sounds reasonable. I am reminded of the folks who thought you could get AIDS from a mosquito bite, you can’t. A lot of stuff gets foisted off on us because it sounds reasonable. Only when someone comes along with real data does it stand a chance of being corrected. Sadly, the truth is often really complicated. That gives simple, reasonable sounding, falsehoods a break. Most people want a simple answer and don’t particularly care if it is dead wrong. 🙁

Reply to  commieBob
November 20, 2018 6:49 pm

A lie can circle the world before the truth can put on it’s boots.

November 20, 2018 9:24 am

Problem with the rain is if it’s heavy enough it will wash away the topsoil and make recovery much slower.

In Galicia, (north west Spain) after the fires we had torrential rain which caused mudslides right through several coastal villages, just to add to the disaster.

November 20, 2018 9:28 am

It’s going to be acidic. Poisonous! And radioactive! And it’s only your fault!
The Salvation comes in paying indulgences!
Spread the TRUTH!

D Cage
Reply to  Adrian
November 22, 2018 12:33 am

And Eskimos have been holding huge scale off shore barbecues and raves burning immense amounts of fossil fuels as evidenced by the intermittent hot spots popping up off shore in that region. As all climate change and ice melts in the Arctic are man made and a result of fossil fuel use and this is beyond question my statement has to be true. Unless of course you can explain al those pop up local hot spots by other man made sources like perhaps Arctic tourist submarine cruises surfacing at the various different locations.

Tom Halla
November 20, 2018 9:38 am

Just the latest in scary stories, for which there seems to be a vast market.

Reply to  Tom Halla
November 20, 2018 9:49 am

… the whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, most of them imaginary. H.L. Mencken

November 20, 2018 9:41 am

The sky is falling!

November 20, 2018 10:04 am

Yea, I am waiting for the grey snow from all the ash in air! People are being fed all manner of false information anymore, you ccan’t even run a parody webpage! Saw a graphic in a news story showing people in eastern states being effected by smoke from Cali fires.

John F. Hultquist
November 20, 2018 10:14 am

… fight ignorance and fear

Once a person learns something, unlearning it is difficult.

Good summary, though. Thanks.

Al Miller
Reply to  John F. Hultquist
November 20, 2018 5:35 pm

Once a person learns – something it is difficult to unlearn it. This is another way to say those who did not learn history are doomed to repeat it; and to try to foist their ignorance on the rest of us!

D Cage
Reply to  Al Miller
November 22, 2018 12:55 am

Well they seem to have unlearnt that climate scientists predicted an ice age not a global warming one not so long ago. It seems that history is very selectively remembered or taught and often one only learns some things by sheer chance.
I couldn’t help laughing at a girl who was wearing a ban fur use faux fur badge as well as a ban plastics badge. She took offence at me laughing at her. I asked her what faux fur was made of and she didn’t know but to her credit she got out her mobile and looked it up and went red as a beetroot but said these two were her teacher’s pet hobby horses.
What has gone wrong with education both here and in the US and clearly not just recently as when George Orwell was writing it had obviously started to happen?
I was a pensioner before I learned about the million white slaves taken by black races and the near zero survival rate at their hands. I thought I had picked up a novel by a very sick minded writer at first and was about to dump it when I turned to the back and saw the references to documents used as the basis and that it was nearer a biography than a novel. It certainly puts the idea of blacks as victims of slavery into real perspective.
What was it Ford was supposed to have said? “history is bunk as taught in schools.” I believe.

November 20, 2018 10:24 am

On October 8 1871 four very large fires occurred around Lake Michigan: the great Peshtigo Fire, the Great Chicago Fire, the Port Huron Fire and the Great Michigan fire. Together they comprised at least 10,000 square kilometers and killed perhaps 3,000 people.

The smoke from that must really have been something. Fortunately soot is pretty harmless.

Don K
Reply to  tty
November 20, 2018 4:21 pm

“Fortunately soot is pretty harmless.”

Yep. Unless it’s coming from a chemical plant fire or some such. AFAICS, the only people who need to worry about the soot might, and I emphasize MIGHT, be a handful of folks who collect rain water in cisterns for drinking. It might be a good idea for them (if there are any) to divert the first few hours of roof runoff into the garden. Who wants/needs drinking water with unusual amounts of partially combusted organics in it?

Carolyn L.
Reply to  Don K
November 20, 2018 7:31 pm

Cisterns are illegal in California as is almost everything else.

Reply to  Carolyn L.
November 20, 2018 7:54 pm

It used to be. The law was changed in 2012.

Zig Zag Wanderer
Reply to  Les Johnson
November 20, 2018 11:48 pm

Wow. I’d love to see the reasoning behind making collection of rainwater illegal.

Here in Australia a significant number of homes and farms rely on Rainwater as they do not have mains water. All my water is rainwater, or I have to buy tanker loads of town water.

Reply to  Don K
November 21, 2018 3:59 am

I was about to write the same, but isnt rainwater collection banned in “greentard” cali?
the single most stupid laws ive read about
drink recycled pharma etc from municipal supplies over clean rainwater…
that said in aus where its legal the govt subsidised tanks but ONLY for flushing loo and laundry use
when multiple generations used and still do rainwater in preference, we do divert the first falls to allow leaves birdpoop and dirt to flush away from gutters and roofs .
even in places that dont do that, I have never ever heard of any illness due to rainwater.
we used to float kero on top to deter mozzies but parrafins now the promoted option

another Jim
November 20, 2018 10:43 am

Once the smoke has blown downwind and out of CA, the rain will not be contaminated inCA. Where ever the smoke comes down will be.

Biomass burns generate tetrachlorodibenzodionin and other dioxins and furans.


One source has estimated that 130 pounds of PCDDs have been produced in Canadian forest fires annually ( Gribble, G. W. 1994. The natural production of chlorinated compounds.
Environ. Sci. Technol. 28(7):310A-319A.)

stimated average annual worldwide emission sources of PCDDs and PCDFs (Brzuzy and Hites 1996, Environ. Sci. Technol. 30:1797-1804.)
Source Biomass combustion 350 kilograms/year

Ben of Houston
Reply to  another Jim
November 20, 2018 11:23 am

Dioxin and Furan creation requires chlorine and benzene. This is present in microscopic concentrations in a normal fire. The only real exception is burning polystyrene or some hazardous wastes. The volume of aromatics involved make that relatively high in dioxins. However, that’s still a very small portion.

While stack tests measure these emissions in fractional parts per quadrillion, the exposure is small because of the absurd volume of air involved (namely, multiple states worth). Again, it’s less exposure than a campfire. Considering that these chemicals fairly readily react and break down (which is responsible for their toxic nature in the first place), the quantity isn’t cumulative.

I’m not saying that it’s good for you, but it’s in such small quantities that it isn’t measurably bad either

Reply to  another Jim
November 22, 2018 1:03 am

Thanks for your post. It’s well known that smoked and barbecued foods (that is, directly exposed to smoke) carry some risk of cancer, butcI was too lazy to look this up. I think we all could benefit by being more precise in the definitions of the words we use.

November 20, 2018 11:04 am

UC Davis started a study last year in which people affected by smoke from last year’s wildfire could send in eggs from their chickens to be tested for contaminants. It sort of went silent and no test results have been made public as of yet that I am aware of.

November 20, 2018 11:10 am
D. J. Hawkins
November 20, 2018 11:31 am

The only bright spot is that apparently Facebook has pulled the post.

November 20, 2018 12:38 pm

Here’s a suggestion, Stop calling the Camp Creek road fire, the Camp Fire. Sounds like the fire was caused by a camp fire and not an electric power line fire.

John MacDonald
Reply to  jmorpuss
November 22, 2018 12:13 am

That would be incorrect. Fires are named by agencies like CalFire and are generally single word names based on the nearest map feature to the ignition point. Short names also assist with radio comms. We are stuck with Camp.

Reply to  John MacDonald
November 22, 2018 1:32 pm

Thanks for the info John, ” CampCreek” fire rolls of the tongue pretty well. I just find it strange , that the worst fire ever in California, re loss of life and infrastructure, will be remembered as the “Camp Fire” I know when I awoke to the news, my first thoughts were, bloody campers not putting out their “Camp Fire” properly was the cause. Cheers

November 20, 2018 1:09 pm

There are several definitions for “toxic” . When I read the post , then re-posted I did not think of deadly toxins burning our skin. Seriously. Come on. I read it as harmful, bad, or unpleasant. Such as it would be “bad (toxic)” to let my dog drink out of his water bowl that is usually outside. Or it would be bad or harmful to allow children to play on play structures that had ash all over it, and especially during the first rain. Cause as we know kids like to like their hand and like water drops! I know mine do on our climbing structures in our backyard. This rain might be “harmful” for the first few hours for those who suffer asthma as it will stir things up just a bit. For you all to call this as stupid, and fear mongering, is ridiculous. The only thing that set people off was 1 word, “toxic”. As we’ve seen not everyone in emergency situations are thinking about all the little things. And not everyone has common sense. To me this is a reminder, a common sense, thing that people need to be aware of. So just change that 1 word to “yucky rain” if it makes you feel better. Or just don’t over dramatize 1 word in a post meant to be helpful. I mean seriously, of course your skin is not going to fall off if you get ashy rain water on you when the first rain comes. Thanks for calling people who are trying to be helpful, calling them unintelligent, or uninformed, or belittling us. When in fact no where did anyone ever say it was going to kill you! I will not give your future posts any attention since you showed so much lack of respect in your use of name calling and belittling of others.

D. J. Hawkins
Reply to  Jessica
November 20, 2018 4:46 pm

I’m so sorry Snowflake, just what do the words “THIS RAIN WILL BE EXTREMELY TOXIC!!!” (don’t forget all three exclamation points) mean in your universe? It was explained that all the materials that could possibly have contributed any soluble products of combustion from man-made materials (e.g. cyanide from formaldehyde foam) had long ago blown out to sea. Whatever is coming down in the rain is what usually comes down in the rain, plus a little (very little, mass-wise) extra particulate matter from the trees and brush still burning.

And yes, people spreading this kind of FUD (fear, uncertainty, and doubt) are largely unintelligent AND uninformed.

Mark Luhman
Reply to  D. J. Hawkins
November 20, 2018 5:39 pm

Funny when I grew up the rain or snow from fires were not even considered a problem and a lot of people heated with wood and trash burners, and open burning dumps(oh by the way thos old dumps sites when test are not toxic most toxins are undetectable, unlike out modern safe way of garbage deposal by burying it.) We did have serious warnings about radioactivity, since we were down wind for the above ground nuclear test. I wonder how the snowflakes of today would cope with that one!

November 20, 2018 1:42 pm

My greatest concern is for ash runoff into the beautiful trout streams in the area (my fishing haunts at the upper branches of Lake Oroville). I wonder if the ichthyologists working for the Federal Govt. will take dead fish counts as a result of all the “environmental” policies that led to this fire? Do we have to destroy the environment to save the environment? … because fire is “natural” don’t you know?

If all the “eco” bureaucracies (we PAY for) in the State of CA do not acknowledge their culpability in this environmental disaster … then they should be disbanded. If this State doesn’t start allowing selective logging, clearing of brush and scrub trees, building of access roads … then we are going to LOSE every acre they’re purporting to “save” and defend. The current crop of “environmentalists are at WAR with humans. Their current goals and beliefs are frankly quite sick. Sick in the head. Typical leftists oblivious to the unintended consequences of their actions.

I am very worried for the short term health of trout streams and creeks. It is SICK that the bureaucracies who fostered the policies leading to these multiple fires purport to “care” about fish. They will have killed mass numbers of fish.

So when a fertilizer tank car overturns into a trout stream and virtually wipes out every fish for miles … for years … it is top of the fold news. But when the “environmental” policies leading to multiple devastating fires throughout CA slaughtering countless numbers of fish and ALL manner of animal species … crickets. Actually … just silence … because all the crickets were incinerated by idiotic eco-polices.

D. J. Hawkins
Reply to  Kenji
November 20, 2018 4:56 pm

I wouldn’t worry that much about ash in the trout streams. It’s the silt/mudslides getting washed into the rivers and streams that’s going to be the real problem.

Mark Luhman
Reply to  D. J. Hawkins
November 20, 2018 5:44 pm

Dissolved solids most of the time are problems for fish, except for the endangered fish in the desert south west, dams that trap the dissolve solids from the nature’s run off is a threat to the native fish here in Arizona and elsewhere because the native fish evolved with them they do not survive without them.

Reply to  Kenji
November 20, 2018 8:02 pm

You’re right to be concerned. Wood ash has a high pH and runoff from burnt forest areas will raise the pH of stream water. I’ve seen a pH of 9 kill freshwater eels, and trout are like likely to be similarly susceptible.

Hunter Paalman
November 20, 2018 2:26 pm

Remember the good old days when grandma made lye soap for the family? She added ashes to water to make an alkaline solution, mostly KOH, and then added fat to make a kind of soap the could be separated and pressed into blocks.

I think the Camp Fier (and all others) makes gobs of ashes and these sprinkled with rain will leach out a dilute alkaline liquid, which probably is the primary bad chemical outcome. Animals licking a swig from a little puddle will get a nasty taste and spit it out. Runoff into a stream will raise holy hell with trout and doubtless other critters.

So not to worry, pilgrims, this is just a third order effect of Global Warming, or whatever.

Gerald Machnee
November 20, 2018 2:43 pm

As usual, great work again Anthony.

November 20, 2018 3:30 pm

Cliff Mass has a great write- up on the Camp fire.


And a blogger on his site had, in my opinion, the best advice for preventing future tragedies:

AnselNovember 20, 2018 at 9:56 AM

“In addition to power shutoffs, California should institute new statewide guidelines requiring all new planned developments in wooded or wild areas to build fire-resistant homes- stucco walls, tile or metal roofs, metal studs, metal shutters for the windows, and landscape with the less flammable deciduous trees planted well away from the houses. It’s even worth considering concrete, rather than asphalt, roads (as I understand it, in some of these fires the road itself burns, which can only happen with asphalt). It might be worth building local underground “fire-shelters” either in the basement of homes or in community centers, much as Kansans have “tornado shelters”. Finally, installed outdoor sprinkler systems should be considered as well.”

No Name Guy
November 20, 2018 3:50 pm

They better watch out for that toxic di-hydrogen monoxide falling from the sky. 😉

November 20, 2018 9:00 pm

Smoke and soot are dangerous.
Leftover smoke and soot following a fire are more than just smelly and unsightly. Exposure during fire restoration efforts can adversely affect your health. Children, the elderly, and those with weakened immune systems are particularly at risk when exposed to smoke and soot. Its effects have been known since the 18th century, when the British Parliament passed the Chimney Sweepers Act in response to its association with cancer – the first ever occupational health legislation

November 20, 2018 9:00 pm

I’d be a little concerned about water quality due to runoff into streams, lakes and wells. I assume a lot of fire suppressing chemicals were used in the fires. If not then perhaps not much to worry about

However, the soil near residential areas that were burned could have some toxic chemicals from the burning of plastics and chemicals. I wouldnt want my pet drinking from puddles near these areas or frolicking in them

The threat from the air I agree should pretty much be minimal. Its whats on the ground already that people should pay attention to.

Reply to  Pft
November 20, 2018 10:03 pm

That is a very sensible outlook, I totally agree with you. Exactly what I was thinking. The entire town is gone and the first heavy rain of the year is bearing down, so no danger of lifeforms frolicking in puddles however lol.

James Bull
November 20, 2018 10:01 pm

I can remember during the “Acid Rain” scare of the 70’s/80’s seeing a film purporting to show how the ground and trees actually fizzed when the rain fell on them, sounds like a similar theme here.

James Bull

November 21, 2018 1:17 pm

If Chris Berry ever experiences a total solar eclipse, I assume Chris will be in a closet with the door closed.

November 21, 2018 1:33 pm

This is cute. The Snopes page linked to this NIH page, . From there they summarized a bit, as am I:

Smoke can contain thousands of individual compounds, in categories such as PM, hydrocarbons and other organic chemicals, nitrogen oxides, trace minerals, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, and water vapor. …

The health effects widely considered to be linked with wildfire smoke include exacerbation of preexisting respiratory conditions such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), reduced lung function, chest pain, and general symptoms such as eye irritation, fatigue, headache, dizziness, and stress. Woodsmoke exposure may depress the respiratory immune defenses and has been linked with emergency department visits for upper and lower respiratory effects. The evidence regarding cardiovascular effects has been mixed, but recent research is reinforcing these health issues as a possible area of concern, though sometimes only for certain categories of people in any given study.

Did you notice the reference to “water vapor?” That’s sometimes called gaseous DHMO (DiHydrogen MonOxide, a relative of carbon monoxide, another component in wildfire smoke. DHMO is a scourge of all we hold near and dear, and a major component of rain, even clean rain! So I salute the NIH for taking a courageous stand to add to the dangers of DHMO. Let’s hope other federal agencies can further sound the alarm. See for much more.

Gunga Din
Reply to  Ric Werme
November 21, 2018 2:33 pm

The lives the DHMO site has saved can’t be measured.
Wasn’t it started by the California EPA?

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