Wildfires and Human Health

A Wildfires and Human Health working group led by a team of researchers at the University of Washington and The Nature Conservancy. Our purpose is to develop a consensus-driven, evidence-based approach to identify and communicate the human health and health equity implications of wildfires versus ecological restoration-focused forest management, including managed and prescribed burns in the Western U.S.

With support from SNAPP, the core team assembled a working group that brings together diverse perspectives on the issue, including foresters, ecologists, public health researchers and representatives from different organizations. Sub-teams of working group members are working on the following efforts:

Policy and stakeholder analysis: The purpose of this analysis is to better understand potential policy leverage points for integrating public health and ecological restoration-based forest planning practices, notably prescribed burning, for California, Oregon, and Washington. A review of scientific literature and state and federal policies were conducted, and barriers and facilitators for prescribed burning in each of the three states were identified. A collaborative approach with key stakeholders is recommended to effectively integrate human health and equity concerns when planning for prescribed burns.

Health impact assessment: The health impacts assessment will describe tradeoffs in ecological forestry management and wildfires for human health. We are currently preparing model inputs to simulate future fire activities/behaviors for seven different forest management plans up to the year 2100 in the Tahoe Central Sierra region in California. Here, the work stream will integrate land use modeling for fire emissions using the LANDIS II model with the HYSPLIT model for estimating dispersion of emissions under different land-use scenarios.

Partners and Advisories:
Tribal Healthy Homes Network
California Environmental Protection Agency
Department of Forestry and Fire Protection
Washington State Departments of Ecology, Health, Labor & Industries and Natural Resources
Oregon State University
US Forest Service
US Geological Survey

Learn more about this project through this Article

Wildfire and Smoke

Principal Investigator: June Spector, MD, MPH
Associate Professor, Department of Environmental & Occupational Health Sciences, and Medicine (General Internal Medicine), University of Washington
Deputy Director of the Northwest Center for Occupational Health and Safety

Science for Nature and People Partnership, 2020 - 2021