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Wildfires and Their Effects

Olivia Copeland, Ashley Czermak, Katelyn Hersey, Lucy Diaz



Currently, the United States is facing an escalating environmental crisis, as the risk of wildfires is intensifying and in turn causing an increase in pollution. These environmental challenges are reshaping the nation's landscape and posing a significant threat to public health. Historically, the United States has tackled wildfires through a combination of prevention, monitoring, and management methods. This includes ignition management, technological advancements, and the Clean Air Act (CAA). Yet, due to the increasing frequency and intensity of wildfires increased support is needed.

Preventative methods include controlled burns, The Smokey Bear Program, and powerline management. Controlled burns are deliberate fires designed to reduce excess plant debris, which can fuel wildfire spread. Historically, forests had regular burns for this reason, but the National Geographic Society (2023) mentions that this tactic due to its risk grew restricted, causing accumulation of debris.

The Smokey Bear program, which similarly functions as a preventative method, educates communities on wildfire prevention. The program teaches campfire safety and how to safely burn backyard debris. This method calls on citizens to take responsibility for their personal fire usage, and raises awareness.

In recent national news, downed transmission lines have been a source of consideration in wildfire prevention. Powerline management implements shutoffs during high-risk periods or active wildfires, keeping additional ignition points from forming. Downed power lines remain energized, igniting fire if they come in contact with vegetation. They can be highly dangerous if not regulated during high-risk periods.

Advancing technology now allows us to track wildfires and ignition areas. EOSDA Forest Monitoring, is a software that uses AI-powered satellite imagery to monitor forest health, notifying the user about recent changes and risks. Then there is the CAA which monitors pollutants like fine particulate matter (PM 2.5), produced by wildfire smoke. This act manages air quality by setting standards for states to meet, assisting with emission reduction programs, and sending public advisories.

Human health is another factor at the forefront of air quality monitoring. Particulate matter (PM 2.5) can cause severe cardiovascular and respiratory issues, including impaired blood vessels and asthma. Children face adverse effects such as exacerbated asthma and increased likelihood for neurologic diseases down the road. Addressing the impact of PM 2.5 on public health is crucial to protect individuals from health complications.

Looking to the future, predictions indicate wildfires increasing 15% by 2030 and PM 2.5 increasing 50% by 2100. Daunting statistics like these demand action. One actionable item which is currently underway is increased support to firefighters. Due to the increasing wildfires in Canada over summer 2023, the U.S. has experienced severe air quality impacts. According to a White House fact sheet, The Biden-Harris administration has tried to prepare citizens and issued a 2024 budget request to increase U.S. firefighter pay, provide health and mental health resources, and firefighter housing


Citation


  1. About the campaign. Smokey Bear. (2021, August 4). https://smokeybear.com/en/smok...

  2. Borotkanych, N. (2021, July 20). EOSDA to launch forest management software EOSDA Forest Monitoring. EOS Data Analytics. https://eos.com/blog/eosda-to-...

  3. Congressional Research Service. (2022, September 13). Clean Air Act: A summary of the ACT and its major requirements. https://crsreports.congress.go...

  4. National Geographic. (2023). https://www.nationalgeographic...

  5. Panossian, N., & Engidy, T. (2023, June). Power system wildfire risks and potential solutions. https://www.nrel.gov/docs/fy23...

  6. Silva, R. A., West, J. J., Lamarque, J.-F., Shindell, D. T., Collins, W. J., Faluvegi, G., Folberth, G. A., Horowitz, L. W., Nagashima, T., Naik, V., Rumbold, S. T., Sudo, K., Takemura, T., Bergmann, D., Cameron-Smith, P., Doherty, R. M., Josse, B., MacKenzie, I. A., Stevenson, D. S., & Zeng, G. (2017). Future global mortality from changes in air pollution attributable to climate change. Nature Climate Change, 7(9), 647–651. https://doi.org/10.1038/nclima...

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  8. The United States Government. (2023, June 8). Fact sheet: The biden-harris administration supports communities impacted by wildfires and Smoke. The White House. https://www.whitehouse.gov/bri...;



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