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Oregon wildfire smoke communications and impacts: An evaluation of the 2020 wildfire season

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Oregon Health Authority and the University of Oregon partnered to conduct a survey-based evaluation of wildfire smoke communications and impacts experienced by Oregon residents during the 2020 wildfire season. The purpose of this survey was to (1) understand how Oregonians respond to wildfire smoke and (2) provide an open-source evaluation tool and data to support wildfire smoke communication practitioners in Oregon.

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Wildfire, smoke exposure, human health, and environmental justice need to be integrated into forest restoration and management

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Increasing wildfire size and severity across the western United States has created an environmental and social crisis that must be approached from a transdisciplinary perspective. Climate change and more than a century of fire exclusion and wildfire suppression have led to contemporary wildfires with more severe environmental impacts and human smoke exposure. Wildfires increase smoke exposure for broad swaths of the US population, though outdoor workers and socially disadvantaged groups with limited adaptive capacity can be disproportionally exposed. Exposure to wildfire smoke is associated with a range of health impacts in children and adults, including exacerbation of existing respiratory diseases such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, worse birth outcomes, and cardiovascular events. Seasonally dry forests in Washington, Oregon, and California can benefit from ecological restoration as a way to adapt forests to climate change and reduce smoke impacts on affected communities.

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Wildfire, smoke exposure, human health, and environmental justice need to be integrated into forest restoration and management

Webinar recording.

Increasing wildfire size and severity across the western United States has created an environmental and social crisis that must be approached from a transdisciplinary perspective. This presentation will summarize a recently published article in Current Environmental Health Reports that details how and why scientists, planners, foresters and fire managers, fire safety, air quality, and public health practitioners must collaboratively work together. This article is the result of a series of transdisciplinary conversations to find common ground and subsequently provide a holistic view of how forest and fire management intersect with human health through the impacts of smoke and articulate the need for an integrated approach to both planning and practice.

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Can prescribed fires mitigate health harm?

In this report, we summarize existing research on the air quality and human health impacts of wildfire and prescribed fire. This report is intended to inform policy solutions that support safe and effective prescribed fire, and that reduce the scale of health impacts caused by smoke from catastrophic wildfires. Beyond the scope of this report are other fire management and mitigation strategies (e.g., forest thinning, pile burns, the use of thinned biomass for energy production), and other forms of prescribed fire used for purposes other than fire management (e.g., agricultural burning). Additionally, occupational wildfire-related exposures of firefighters and emergency responders are beyond the scope of this report.

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Smoke ready Oregon: Preparing for wildfire smoke

Webinar recording.

Smoke from wildfires is becoming a reality that individuals and communities face each fire season. Want to learn how you can protect yourself and those you care about from wildfire smoke? In this webinar, we talk about smoke impacts to human health, how to access important air quality information and how to differentiate between the levels of air quality. We also cover things you can do right now to prepare.

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Comparing air quality and public health impacts from prescribed fire and wildfire smoke

Webinar recording.

This webinar will introduce the recent release of the EPA Report on Comparing Air Quality and Public Health Impacts from Prescribed Fire and Wildfire Smoke.

Jason Sacks, with the Center for Public Health and Environmental Assessment, Office of Research and Development at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will present an overview of the studies that provided the information for this report aimed at helping federal, state, local and Tribal partners and fire organizations make risk management decisions to reduce the impacts of wildfire smoke in their communities.

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Wildfire smoke may have contributed to thousands more COVID-19 cases and deaths

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Thousands of COVID-19 cases and deaths in California, Oregon, and Washington between March and December 2020 may be attributable to increases in fine particulate air pollution (PM2.5) from wildfire smoke, according to a new study co-authored by researchers at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

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Prescribed fire smoke and community health: Successes from smoke-ready communities

Webinar recording.

Join the Western Region of the Wildland Fire Leadership Council (WFLC) and the Fire Adapted Communities Learning Network (FAC Net) for a panel-style webinar.

See also, this Smoke Resources List developed from the webinar.

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Wildfire smoke and health

Webinar recording.

Meteorologist and Public Information Officer Chris Smallcomb, from the National Weather Service – Reno office, will discuss smoke forecasting and models used to predict smoke. Air Quality Specialist Brendan Schnieder, with the Washoe County Health District’s Air Quality Management Division, will discuss wildfire smoke and health impacts.

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Nevada Wildfire Awareness Campaign: Webinar Series

Campaign webpage.

Firewise landscaping, May 10, 11:30–1 PDT, Webinar recording

  • This webinar is presented with the University’s Wendy Hanson Mazet, Certified Arborist, and Extension Plant Diagnostician. She has expertise in horticulture, arboriculture, noxious weeds, and vegetable and low water use gardening.

Wildfire evacuation preparedness, May 13, 11:30–1 PDT, Webinar recording

  • This webinar is presented with the University’s Osher Life Learning Institute, a member-driven organization offering short-term educational experiences for older adults in northern Nevada. Deputy Emergency Manager Jason Danen, with the Carson City Fire Department, will speak about emergency notification systems such as Code Red and other forms of communication to the public during a wildfire. In addition, Skyland Fire Adapted Communities’ Leader and Douglas County Community Emergency Response Team Member Ann Grant will discuss items to prepare for an evacuation go bag and a stay box.

Perspectives of a wildland fire investigator, May 18, 11:30–1 PDT, Webinar recording

  • Fire Mitigation and Education Specialist/Fire Trespass Coordinator Bradley Milam, with the Bureau of Land Management, will share wildfire investigation experiences. Forest Fire Prevention Officer Jennifer Diamond, with the U.S. Forest Service – Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest, will share some fire prevention tips.

The timeline of climate, weather and fire, June 10, 11:30–1 PDT, Webinar recording

  • Climatology Research Professor Tim Brown, also director of the Western Regional Climate Center, will discuss how weather and climate influence fire in Nevada.

Protect, prevent and prepare with NV energy, June 24, 12–1:30 PDT, Powerpoint presentation

  • Natural Disaster Protection Plan Director James Saavdra and Director of Delivery Operations Zeina Randall, both with NV Energy, will discuss how NV Energy is working with customers and partners using innovative strategies to reduce the risk of wildfire to Nevadans.

Wildfire smoke and health, July 8, 11:30– 1 PDT, Webinar recording

  • Meteorologist and Public Information Officer Chris Smallcomb, from the National Weather Service – Reno office, will discuss smoke forecasting and models used to predict smoke. Air Quality Specialist Brendan Schnieder, with the Washoe County Health District’s Air Quality Management Division, will discuss wildfire smoke and health impacts.

Home hardening Q&A, Aug. 12, 11:30– 1 PDT, Webinar recording

  • Living With Fire will host a question-and-answer workshop with Steve Quarles, who is both University of California Cooperative Extension Advisor Emeritus and the retired Chief Scientist for Wildfire and Durability, Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety Research Center. The session will focus on “home hardening,” defined as building or retrofitting homes to withstand wildfire. Watch a previous presentation on this topic online.

Reseeding and flood after wildfire, Sept. 9, 11:30–1 PDT, Webinar recording

  • Forester Anna Higgins with the Nevada Division of Forestry, Ecologist Mark Freese with the Nevada Department of Wildlife, and Project Manager Danae Olson with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will discuss reseeding landscapes, and preparing for potential flood after wildfire.

Prescribed fire in Tahoe and Nevada, Oct. 14, 11:30–1 PDT, Webinar registration

  • Fuels Management Officer Keegan Schafer with Tahoe Douglas Fire Protection District and Forest Fuels and Vegetation Program Manager Duncan Leao with the U.S. Forest Service – Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest will discuss prescribed fire and projects in the Lake Tahoe Basin and Nevada.

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