Health Services recommended N95 masks only for those actually in a fire zone. Because the mask restricts the flow of air –the unfortunate consequence of breathing through a filter, Pinkerton said – the county’s public health officer deemed it dangerous for people with heart or respiratory conditions.
In addition, the Department of Health Services pointed out that the presence of an N95 mask might “encourage outdoor activity which could worsen exposure” – in effect, that it would create a false sense of security.
There are other limitations. To work properly, an N95 mask has to be properly fitted to your face so that a seal is created around the edges, and a regular-sized mask won’t fit a child or anyone with a beard.
And while the mask is designed to filter even tiny particles, it won’t work at all on toxic gases – which means it’s not an effective tool for anyone up close to a fire.