Wildfire smoke

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced the selection of four grant applicants to receive an expected $3,472,516 in funding to enhance wildfire smoke preparedness and protection in communities throughout the Pacific Northwest.

“After the wildfires in Maui, the wildfire smoke that blanketed the East Coast last summer, and the many devastating wildfires in the West, we are all aware of the very real health impacts of smoke as well as the critical importance of smoke preparedness,” says EPA Deputy Administrator Janet McCabe. “EPA is providing more than $10 million in grant funding that will help provide important public health protections in communities across our country, especially in those communities who have been overburdened by smoke pollution for far too long.”

“Every community in the Pacific Northwest is impacted by smoke from wildfires,” says EPA Region 10 Administrator Casey Sixkiller. “EPA is committed to supporting innovative solutions and investing in partnerships with tribes, schools, and other organizations to help these communities prepare for longer wildfire seasons and learn how best to protect their families.”

Wildfire smoke is a significant public health problem. Smoke plumes can have impacts over a large portion of our population, with health impacts ranging from eye and throat irritation to asthma attacks, cardiovascular events, and even premature death. Local officials often advise people to stay indoors during a smoke event. However, some of the smoke from outdoors can enter homes and buildings and make it unhealthy to breathe indoor air, too. Buildings are varied and do not all provide the same level of protection against wildfire smoke.

“As climate chaos intensifies, so do extreme wildfires and hazardous smoke events — events that endanger public health and impact everyday life for those under the plumes of dark smoke,” says Senator Jeff Merkley, Chair of the Interior Appropriations Subcommittee. “I created this program to help ensure communities in Oregon and across the West have access to the resources they need to protect themselves from the dangerous smoke and heat that has unfortunately become expected with our increasingly hot summer months.”

The following entities have been selected for awards, which are contingent on completion of all legal and administrative requirements relating to the grant:

• Nez Perce Tribe, Tribal land within boundaries of Idaho ($1,337,920) To improve public health protection against smoke from wildfires by strengthening preparedness in community buildings. The project will enhance smoke readiness planning, outreach and training, deploy portable air cleaners, conduct indoor/outdoor air monitoring, complete weatherization, and upgrade HVAC systems. Three community centers, nine public libraries, and four youth centers will be upgraded to provide cleaner air spaces to the public during wildfire smoke events for effective reduction of occupants’ exposure.

• Bellingham School District No.501, Washington ($364,400) To focus on smoke readiness assessment and planning as well as indoor and outdoor air quality monitoring.

• Gonzaga University, Washington ($1,102,696) For activities that will reduce indoor exposure to pollutants in wildfire smoke in the City of Spokane and in three community centers serving disadvantaged communities.

• Oregon State University, Oregon ($667,500) To develop a set of interventions that includes tailored toolkits and resources that can be used by schools, preschools, and daycares to reduce wildfire smoke exposures and increase community resilience across Oregon.

Read up on masking tups during wildfires here