EPA announces over $10M in wildfire smoke preparedness grants

The US Environmental Protection Agency announced Tuesday the selection of nine grant recipients who will receive an expected total of $10.67 million to enhance wildfire smoke preparedness and protection in communities across the West.

The Wildfire Smoke Preparedness in Community Buildings grant program is aimed at projects designed to assess, prevent, control, or abate wildfire smoke hazards in community buildings, such as schools. The grant funding ranges from around $350 thousand to $2 million.

EPA says buildings are varied in their ability to protect from outside wildfire smoke. The Center for Disease Control says breathing in smoke can cause a range of health issues, including trouble breathing, asthma attacks, stinging eyes, headaches, chest pain, and a rapid heartbeat.

“As climate chaos intensifies, so do extreme wildfires and hazardous smoke events — events that endanger public health and impact everyday life for those under the plumes of dark smoke,” said Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Chair of the Interior Appropriations Subcommittee. “I created this program to help ensure communities in Oregon and across the West have access to the resources they need to protect themselves from the dangerous smoke and heat that has unfortunately become expected with our increasingly hot summer months.”

Oregon State University, one of the recipients of this grant, plans to develop a set of interventions including “tailored toolkits and resources that can be used by schools, preschools, and daycares to reduce wildfire smoke exposure and increase community resilience,” according to the EPA press release.

The full list of grant recipients can be seen below:

  • Arizona Board of Regents-Arizona State University, Arizona – To engage diverse communities in Arizona to develop resilient solutions to the challenges that are posed by wildfires. The project is expected to: (1) engage community members with knowledge of indoor air pollution control and associated health fields, (2) evaluate the resilient capacity of facilities to handle the air pollution and heat impacts of wildfires, and (3) implement sustainable solutions in facilities to enhance resiliency towards the air quality and heat impacts of wildfires.
  • Esperanza Community Housing Corporation, California – To protect the people of South Los Angeles from wildfire smoke by strengthening wildfire smoke preparedness infrastructure in the Mercado La Paloma building and using the site as the launch pad for a grassroots education and outreach campaign.
  • Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, Colorado – To design and implement a statewide program to provide outreach, education, and training for local community partners on how to prepare for, and respond to, the public health threat of wildfire smoke.
  • Nez Perce Tribe, Tribal land within boundaries of Idaho – To improve public health protection against smoke from wildfires by strengthening preparedness in community buildings. The project will enhance smoke readiness planning, outreach and training, deploy portable air cleaners, conduct indoor/outdoor air monitoring, complete weatherization, and upgrade HVAC systems. Three community centers, nine public libraries, and four youth centers will be upgraded to provide cleaner air spaces to the public during wildfire smoke events for effective reduction of occupants’ exposure.
  • Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services, Montana – To engage a variety of partners to increase wildfire smoke awareness, create and pilot a clean air shelter recognition program in six communities for easy replication in other high need areas, create culturally appropriate and tailored messaging on wildfire smoke and air quality, and provide training to building and facility managers on HVAC maintenance and importance of good indoor air quality.
  • Oregon State University, Oregon – To develop a set of interventions that includes tailored toolkits and resources that can be used by schools, preschools, and daycares to reduce wildfire smoke exposures and increase community resilience across Oregon.
  • Utah Department of Environmental Quality, Utah – To enhance communities’ resilience to wildfire smoke by (1) deploying indoor/outdoor low-cost PM2.5 and CO2 sensors at public schools, (2) developing air quality alerts, and (3) distributing air cleaners and filters to public schools/preschools and residents in target underserved areas.
  • Gonzaga University, Washington – For activities that will reduce indoor exposure to pollutants in wildfire smoke in the City of Spokane and in three community centers serving disadvantaged communities.
  • Bellingham School District No.501, Washington – To focus on smoke readiness assessment and planning as well as indoor and outdoor air quality monitoring.

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Taylar Ansures is a producer and reporter for NBC5 News. Taylar is from Redding, California and went to California State University, Chico. After graduating, she joined KRCR News Channel 7 in Redding as a morning producer. She moved to Southern Oregon in 2022 to be closer to family and became KTVL News 10’s digital producer. Taylar is currently finishing her Master's Degree in Professional Creative Writing through the University of Denver. In her free time, Taylar frequents independent bookstores and explores hiking trails across Southern Oregon and Northern California.
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