Ontario company handing out hundreds of free masks to wildfire workers

By Vanessa Ybarra
August 6, 2017 - 10:30am Updated: August 6, 2017 - 1:01pm

KAMLOOPS — An Ontario-based company is on a mission to help wildfire workers  breathe easier.

Rich Szasz, Chief Innovation Officer with 02 Canada, says he and his colleagues spent more than two years designing a seal-tight mask that features a replaceable filter.

The company planned to launch their innovative product throughout Asia, in particular Beijing one of the worst cities in the world for air pollution, however plans quickly changed after hearing about the wildfire crisis in B.C.

The group touched down in Kamloops Saturday and are spending the next week handing out 250 free masks to volunteers, fire officials, and more.

"We don't want to just be handing them out on th street," said Szasz. "We certainly want to get them to people that have ashtma, maybe respiratory problems or who spend a lot of time outside."

By mid afternoon the group had already supplied half a dozen masks to Salvation Army volunteers and were en route to give them to helicopter pilots at the Kamloops Airport.

"They're working outside for up to 13 hours a day," said Szasz. "They're here to help people but they're actually outside exposing themselves to their air, so by donating a bunch of masks we're making sure they're safe while helping people."

Besides helping people breathe easier, Szasz says the mission of their trip is to educate people on the importance of wearing the right mask.

"If you are going to wear a mask, make sure it has an N95 certification," said Szasz. "The surgical masks you see people wearing, those don't work at all. They restrict your breathing which means you're taking in more air and more hazardous materials."

Kamloops Air Health Quality Index hit a staggering 49 last Thursday, the highest on record in the city.

Those wanting a mask can contact the company on Facebook or their website.


Highland Valley workers vote on tentative agreement this week