WHAT

Public Health

Smoke is a product of combustion and is inherent to fire. The effects of smoke are felt by communities, regardless of whether those fires are beneficial to the landscape or not. Those with pre-existing conditions, those who work outdoors, and those who are unhoused are some of the individuals who may be particularly vulnerable to smoke impacts.

Smoke isn’t the only element of public health that matters to communities seeking to better live with wildland fire. Mental health is another critical element of adaptation. Whether communities or individuals have been impacted by smoke, recovering from wildfire, or work in the wildfire field , mental health impacts should be considered.  One question to consider when working to reduce wildfire risk and increase community resilience is “Who do I need to invite to this discussion to ensure that we are considering community mental and physical well-being while living with wildfire?”

Public Health entities are important partners in our wildfire adaptation work. See considerations and resources below.

Considerations

1
Social services are a crucial component of community resiliency. How are you reaching your whole community (including those who speak English as a second language, migrant workers and unhoused community members) with information about health, safety and preparedness related to wildland fire? Which of your partners are already engaging with these community members and can you work together to better serve your community?
2
Public health is an important part of disaster management. From sheltering during a pandemic, to environmental health after a fire (such as soil or water contamination), to communication about water quality impacts and more, public health partners are crucial in this work. Who are the public health partners in your area? Do you have working relationships or can you work to establish them?
3
Practitioners who work in this field are not invincible to stress or burnout. It is important that the wildland fire and disaster management community recognize, acknowledge, and address the signs of burnout and stress in ourselves and our colleagues. Read more from some colleagues here: https://fireadaptednetwork.org/burnout-and-stress-in-the-practitioner-community/.

EXPLORE Public Health RESOURCES

  • WHO

  • WHERE

  • FORMAT

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Wildfires and Safe Drinking Water

Website / Interactive Map
Washington State Department of Health
This resource, for public water systems located in areas prone to wildfires or post-fire debris flows, helps water utilities prepare for and respond to wildfire. Contains checklists and resources as well as guidance for issuing health advisories and creating defensible space. While developed in Washington State, many resources are applicable nationwide. Read More

Wildfires and Indigenous Populations

Website / Interactive Map
National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences
“In this three-part podcast we will hear from experts in Canada, the United States, and Australia about the health effects of wildfires and emergency management, indigenous fire practices to mitigate wildfire intensity, and the compounding effect climate change has on the future of wildfires.” Read More

Wildfire Smoke: A Guide for Public Health Officials

Guide / Pamphlet / Handout
California Air Resources Board (CARB) and the California Department of Public Health (CDPH)
This document is designed to help local public health officials prepare for smoke events, take measures to protect the public when smoke is present, and communicate with the public about wildfire smoke and health. Read More

Wildfire Smoke Webinar Series

Video
FAC Net + Western Region of the Wildland Fire Leadership Council
This webinar series was supported and developed by the Fire Adapted Communities Learning Network and the Western Region of the Wildland Fire Leadership Council. Featuring Ali Lerch as webinar host and community based practitioners and researchers around the US as panelists and presenters. Video 1 – Resident HEPA Filter Programs: Community Solutions for Creating Clean... Read More

Wildfire Smoke Exposure

Website / Interactive Map
Western Center for Agricultural Health and Safety
This website 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). Read More

Wildfire Research in California

Research
Environmental Health Sciences Center at UC Davis
This page details the latest research into wildfire smoke in California and invites participation from the public in ongoing wildfire-health related research. Read More

Washington State Smoke Blog

Website / Interactive Map
Partnering agencies in Washington State
This is a great example of a state-wide resource focused on smoke as well as an effective partnership between Tribes and state, county, and federal agencies in Washington State. This website, designed for communities in Washington State, shares information and resources related to wildfire smoke. Spanish Link: https://wasmoke.blogspot.com/p/informacion-en-espanol_17.html English Link: https://wasmoke.blogspot.com/ Read More

Toolkit to Integrate Health and Equity into Comprehensive Plans

Guide / Pamphlet / Handout
Sagar Shah and Brittany Wong
“American Planning Association’s Planning and Community Health (PCH) program developed this toolkit to help planners integrate health and equity considerations into their comprehensive plans. PCH advances practices that improve human environments to promote health and equity through policies, education, and place-based interventions.” Read More

Social Vulnerability Index Interactive Map

Website / Interactive Map
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Interactive map which can help communities determine their social vulnerability. Data can be viewed at the county or census tract level. Can be used to demonstrate vulnerability for the purposes of a Community Wildfire Defense Grant. Read More
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Photo Credit: Canva Creative Commons
Community Profile
Fire Adaptation in the Field
Ashland, Oregon

Partners in Ashland Oregon, including Ashland Fire & Rescue, the Ashland Chamber of Commerce, local health departments, and area medical providers convened to create Smokewise Ashland, a partnership focused on public health and economic resiliency needs related to wildfire. Smokewise Ashland shares information related to indoor and outdoor air quality as well as steps area residents can take to reduce their risks.

Photo Credit: Chris Chambers. Ashland Fire & Rescue staff disassemble an air purifier to understand its components.