In December 2018, the Puget Sound Climate Preparedness Collaborative (PSCPC) hosted a wildfire convening to illuminate the ways in which climate change affects the potential for wildfires west of the Cascades. The convening also shed light on strategies communities can take to reduce the risk and consequences of wildfire. More recently, more than 100 attendees joined the PSCPC webinar Preparing for Wildfire Season: Past, Present and Future. This webinar continued the conversation, with an emphasis on how wildfire preparedness has evolved since the 2017-18 wildfire smoke events that blanketed the Puget Sound region.
The three-part webinar series featured speakers working in emergency management, public health, forest management, public outreach, and a number of other impactful sectors. Key findings from the series included the following:
- Opportunities for responder training and multi-agency coordination related to wildfire in western Washington have increased, yet still more are essential.
- Understanding that health impacts from wildfire smoke are still evolving and guidance for the public, employers, and outdoor programs about managing exposure to wildfire smoke has significantly improved since 2017.
- COVID-19 has complicated the use of indoor spaces as shelters during wildfire smoke events. Additionally, wildfire smoke exposure may create additional risks for people with COVID-19.
- New Wildland Urban Interface maps from the Washington Dept. of Natural Resources (WA DNR) will be available soon, and will serve as an important tool for managing wildfire risk.
- Wildfire planning conversations with landowners in Whatcom and Skagit counties are shifting. Landowners are assuming when, not if, wildfires will take place, so more tailored messaging for west side wildfires is needed.
- Climate change considerations are being factored into forest management efforts at the state and local level. The webinar included examples from King County, Seattle Public Utilities, and WA DNR where various efforts have been made to mitigate climate change. These efforts include identifying areas that may serve as climate refugia, adaptive forest management experiments (e.g., planting more climate resilient tree species), and restoration.
For more information or to access the presentations and resources from the webinar series, click here.