Fire Safety, Heating and Cooling, Human Resources, Maintenance and Operations, Safety, Training

EPA Awards Nearly $11M to Help Community Buildings Combat Wildfire Smoke

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has selected nine applicants throughout the West to receive nearly $11 million in funding through the Wildfire Smoke Preparedness in Community Buildings grant program.

The new federal program aims to enhance community wildfire smoke preparedness by providing grants to states, federally recognized Tribes, public preschools, local educational agencies, and non-profit organizations. Projects are designed to assess, prevent, control, or abate wildfire smoke hazards in community buildings that serve the public, and that serve disadvantaged communities or vulnerable populations. Projects range from public outreach and training programs to indoor air monitoring and HVAC upgrades.

“After the wildfires in Maui, the wildfire smoke that blanketed the East Coast last summer, and the many devastating wildfires in the West, we are all aware of the very real health impacts of smoke as well as the critical importance of smoke preparedness,” said EPA Deputy Administrator Janet McCabe.

Wildfire smoke is a significant public health problem. Smoke plumes can have impacts over a large portion of the U.S. population, with health impacts ranging from eye and throat irritation to asthma attacks, heart problems, emergency room visits, hospitalizations, and even premature death. Local officials often advise people to stay indoors during a smoke event. Some of the smoke from outdoors, however, can enter homes and buildings and make it unhealthy to breathe indoor air, too. Buildings are varied and do not all provide the same level of protection against wildfire smoke.

Winning Projects

The EPA anticipates awarding nine grants, ranging from approximately $350,000 to $2 million— totaling $10.67 million. The following entities will receive funding, contingent on completion of all legal and administrative requirements relating to the grant:

  • 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 facilities 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.

More info on the EPA grant program is available here.

ALSO READ: Back to Basics: 10 Ways to Prepare Your Facilities for Wildfires

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