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New bill targets health, economic impacts of wildfire smoke

Over the past five years, California has experienced unprecedented wildfire activity that has devastated nearly ten million acres across the state. Wildfire smoke has poured in from hundreds of miles away, severely impacting air quality around regions unaffected by the wildfire itself.

State Senator Marie Alvardo-Gil, in response, has introduced a bill to help address the situation. Noting that the increased wildfire activity is tied to mismanaged forest and wildland strategies that have created a new reality for California – one in which wildfires burn faster and hotter than ever before – she said that in turns presents grave dangers to the environment and residents.

Senator Alvarado-Gil’s Senate Bill 945, The Wildfire Smoke and Health Outcomes Data Act, would allow state agencies to track and monitor air pollution, population exposure, and cases of adverse health outcomes due to wildfire smoke. Using the compiled data, the appropriate agencies would be able to facilitate future research efforts to better understand the negative impacts of wildfire smoke on the environment and California’s population. Currently, there is insufficient data by the state and medical community on these health impacts.

“Ensuring the well-being of our communities means understanding the true impact of wildfire smoke. Our bill aims to unveil the impacts on our population, emphasizing the urgent need to address forest health for a resilient and healthier California,” Senator Alvarado-Gil stated.

The California Council of Science and Technology recently published a report stating that improving the health of California’s forests not only reduces the risk of wildfire, it can also benefit people’s health.

Shannon Douglass, President of the California Farm Bureau, weighed in on the significance of the bill saying, “Farming and ranching communities have been hit directly by wildfire smoke. At a time when state and federal governments, including private landowners, are making substantial investments to mitigate wildfire hazards in our forests and woodlands, it is imperative that policy makers understand how neglecting to invest in our wildfire-prone communities can impact health outcomes – from bringing on respiratory illnesses to pregnancy complications – across the state’s population.”