by Jack Russillo
Washington’s 2021 fire season has already begun and forecasts are saying that it could be just as bad as — and potentially worse than — the 2020 season that saw nearly a million acres burn and more incidents of wildfire than the historic 2015 fire season.
In the latest session, the State Legislature passed House Bill 1168 that will allocate more than $125 million over the next two years to firefighting and forest restoration efforts across the state to tackle wildfires, an increasingly destructive issue for Washingtonians on the west side of the Cascades, even in urban areas. In recent decades, more people have moved into forestlands, and this creates more challenges for responding to wildfires on the borders of urban areas, the bill says.
“Because the climate is changing, we in western Washington are experiencing a drier climate and we’ve had wildland fires in March, which is pretty much unheard of,” said Battalion Chief Brian Dodge of the Puget Sound Fire Authority. “It’s an issue that everyone here on the west side needs to be aware of. And because of the milder winters and the warmer summers, it’s going to continue. It’s all about climate change. It doesn’t matter what side of the aisle you’re on, it’s happening. Because our weather is changing, it puts us at greater risk for these fires. And because we haven’t had these fires regularly, which leaves a lot of dead and down fuel on the ground, which puts us at risk for more intense wildfires.”
Continue reading More Wildfires in Western Washington Spur Increased Firefighting Funding and Training
by Carolyn Bick
Amidst the wildfires and smoke blanketing the state, Washington State reached 2,000 deaths from COVID-19 and more than 80,000 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus, Gov. Jay Inslee announced in a press conference on Sept. 15.
Continue reading Washingtonians’ Indoor Behavior Will Dictate COVID-19 Case Levels and Death Rates This Autumn, Inslee Says
by Carolyn Bick
Though the City will be opening a new smoke shelter in SoDo, Mayor Jenny Durkan in a Sept. 11 press conference did not commit to opening any more government buildings or to working on leasing the mostly empty hotels and motels in downtown Seattle to serve as emergency smoke shelters for people experiencing homelessness.
Continue reading City to Open New SoDo Smoke Shelter, but Durkan Does Not Commit to Opening Any More Buildings, Leasing Hotels to Serve as Smoke Shelters
by Emerald Staff
The Public Information Officer for Washington Emergency Management Division (WEMD) has issued the following Emergency Alert:
“There is [a] super massive cloud of smoke outside of California and Oregon. The wind is changing direction and it’s coming your way tomorrow. You have today to prepare. Let your family and friends know.”
WEMD recommends taking steps to ensure your safety:
Filter your air: Create a box fan filter to keep the air around you as unpolluted as possible. This video will walk you through it (a Spanish version follows the English version). Alternatively, invest in a professional filtering device if possible.
Shop now: Don’t wait to grab essential items.
Stay home: If you don’t have to go out tomorrow, don’t.
Stay updated: Find air quality forecasts here.
Visit the Department of Health website for more information on how to protect yourself from smoke.
Featured image via Washington State Dept. of Ecology.
by Katherine Long
(This story originally appeared in Bitterroot, an online magazine about the politics, economy, culture, and environment of the West.)
After wildfires ripped through California this fall, the plumes of smoke that enveloped the state underscored how millions of people living in the West are being exposed to air pollution. Climate change is likely to make fire and smoke problems worse. What that means for our health, though, is just starting to be understood by researchers. Continue reading Air Quality Is Better Everywhere But The West. Blame Wildfires