While public health has been a major topic of conversation across the globe this year, its importance within the wildfire sphere is often overlooked. Yet, public health is as critical to wildfire adaptation as home hardening or fuel reduction. You might even say that public health is as critical to wildfire adaptation as the air we breathe.
Smoke and its impacts continue to reverberate across landscapes. As smoke is a product of combustion, it is inherent to fire. Smoke’s effects are felt by communities adjacent to fire, regardless of whether those fires are beneficial to the landscape or not. Those with pre-existing conditions, or who are unhoused, can be particularly vulnerable to smoke impacts. This year, FAC Net worked to highlight the importance of smoke preparedness as part of fire adaptation through the development of a learning group dedicated to smoke.
Practitioners from across the country met monthly to discuss programs, share resources, ask questions and dive into how they can better prepare themselves and their communities for the inevitability of wildfire smoke. Additionally, two webinars, hosted jointly with the Western Region of the Wildland Fire Leadership Council, provided examples of programs and mitigation measures around the country.
However important smoke is to fire adaptation, it isn’t the only element of public health that matters to communities seeking to better live with wildland fire. Mental health for our communities impacted by smoke and recovery processes, as well as the day-to-day impact on practitioners are very real.
Public health challenges us within the wildfire sphere. We must look beyond the reaction many have that “public health isn’t in my job description” and move into a space where we are instead asking ourselves questions like “who do I need to invite to this discussion to make sure that we are considering community mental and physical well-being in living with wildfire?”
The FAC Net Staff
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