Smoke, whether from wildfires or prescribed fires, can have a number of both physical and psychological impacts on your community. Smoke can be everything from a natural ecological process, to a small inconvenience, to a severe impact for sensitive populations. When it comes to weeks on end of high wildfire smoke days, it can be emotionally very draining and can have economic impacts on tourism and recreation-dependent communities. Regardless of the impact, it is impossible to talk about wildfire without talking about smoke and many practitioners are helping their community prepare for and mitigate smoke impacts. Smoke can also be important ecologically, so it can be a balance of acknowledging the roles of wildfire and smoke, without dismissing the real health impacts of smoke. This week’s blog post highlights just some of the work happening around the country related to smoke resilience. From “Smoke Ready Communities,” to HEPA Filter grant or loan programs, wildfire practitioners are partnering with diverse partners like local hospitals, and county and state Public Health agencies to support mitigation and preparedness in their communities.
Smokewise Ashland is a local collaborative group in Oregon dedicated to “protecting public health and creating economic resiliency in the face of increasing summer wildfire smoke and the overwhelming need to reduce community wildfire risk through proactive, safely conducted controlled burning” (read more about the partnership here).
Fire Adapted Communities Learning Network member, Ashland Fire and Rescue created the Smokewise Ashland website with the help of their collaborative partners to serve as a “one-stop shop” for smoke-related information and resources for their local community (including businesses). Their website contains information about how smoke impacts health, and includes information about how to properly fit respirators and other protective actions you can take such as creating clean indoor air spaces.
In addition to this website resource, Ashland also uses their community alert system to communicate with their community about alerts and advisories (including smoke). In 2020, Ashland also offered an air purifier pilot program in order to help their most at-risk community members create clean air spaces. Read more about that program here.
The Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation
The Air Quality Program of the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation produced a great video and user’s guide on how to create an air filter from a box fan. This program was also featured on the May 2021 webinar, Resident HEPA Filter Programs: Community Solutions for Clean Air, hosted by FAC Net in partnership with the Western Region of the National Cohesive Strategy and Wildland Fire Leadership Council. The Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation also hosted a webinar in June 2020 focused on creating a smoke ready community.
Smoke Ready Communities Toolkit
Our partner network, the Washington Fire Adapted Communities Learning Network (WAFAC), created a series of learning modules in English and Spanish. Included in each module in the toolkit are a video, sample meeting agenda and sample PowerPoint for communicating with your community about wildfire.
Module 4 is all about Smoke Ready Communities. In this module there are three videos, organized around a welcome, the main content, and a conclusion. These videos are spoken in Spanish and include English subtitles.
The agenda includes suggested objectives, speakers in the state of Washington, topics and links/resources for participants. If you are looking for ideas to host your own community meeting around smoke, check out their sample agenda and PowerPoint (even if you don’t live in Washington)!
Montana Wildfire Smoke
Similar to Ashland’s website, the Montana Wildfire Smoke website is a great resource for Montana community members and businesses to learn about wildfire smoke impacts and how to prepare and mitigate for smoke. The website contains links to real-time smoke conditions and resources.
The Montana Smoke website contains a number of great videos. Two short animated videos produced by Climate Smart Missoula highlight health impacts from smoke and share tips on how to prepare for wildfire smoke. These resources will be useful to communities outside of Montana!
Clean indoor air is also a focus of the Montana Wildfire Smoke website. Missoula Public Health has created two additional videos on creating safer indoor air. Two infographics helping to communicate the need for, and steps to, cleaner indoor air are also available. Website visitors will also find a link to in-depth blog posts by Sarah Coefield, Missoula’s Air Quality specialist.
Additional Websites and Resources
- FAC Net hosted a webinar in partnership with the Western Region of the National Cohesive Strategy and Wildland Fire Leadership Council all about the topic of creating indoor air spaces and establishing air purifier programs. Watch the recording here.
- The Western Center for Agricultural Health and Safety has resources and training opportunities for agricultural workers and provides printed materials that are designed with worker safety in mind (both in English and Spanish).
- The Smoke-Ready Community Toolbox hosted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is a great go-to for links about wildfire smoke (including the intersection between COVID-19 and wildfire smoke).
- The October 2020 National Cohesive Wildland Fire Management Strategy Conference featured a presentation on Smoke Readiness for Low Income, Indigenous Communities by Bill Tripp of the Karuk Tribe. Bill’s presentation begins at 1:27.10 and runs until 1:35.47. Bill highlights the impacts of smoke to human health as well as the benefits of lower levels of smoke as a natural ecosystem process.
From the FAC Net Blog
- The Forest Stewards Guild HEPA Loan Filter program has helped shape and inform similar programs across the country. Read about their work here.
- Smoke Adaptation is Fire Adaptation provides a round-up of resources and thought-provoking questions about how we can become better adapted to smoke.
Are you working on smoke preparedness and mitigation in your community? Tell us about it in the comments below!
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