The American Industrial Hygiene Association® (AIHA) has launched Think and Act Fire Smart, a one-stop information center for wildfire preparedness and recovery. The resource center aims to raise awareness about the hidden dangers in the cleanup process that follows a devastating wildfire, especially in urban areas.
Data from Congressional Research Service show that over the past 10 years, an average of 67,000 wildfires have occurred annually and an average of 7.0 million acres have burned annually. In 2018, 58,083 wildfires burned 8.8 million acres nationwide, the sixth-largest figure on record in terms of acreage burned. As of June 26, 2019, 18,205 wildfires have burned 579,901 acres this year.
While wildfires cannot be eliminated, it is imperative to think of the necessary steps to avoid the potential health hazards that occur during the cleanup and recovery phase. As families return to their homes, it is important that they have their property tested and evaluated by a certified professional to make sure it is completely safe.
Members of AIHA's Incident Preparedness and Response Working Group stated, "It's important to understand the health and safety hazards that wildfires create, even after the event is over. The residue that's left can be dangerous to your health, and that's why before starting to clean up or repair, you should seek the advice of the fire department, a restoration specialist, or an industrial hygienist before returning to your property."
The AIHA Think and Act Fire Smart Resource Center serves as an information hub on wildfires, including hazards that may be present during and after a wildfire incident has occurred, contacts for certified professionals that can help with property evaluation, and facts and figures to help people understand the scope of the challenges we collectively face.
"Fires don't just destroy property; they also leave behind a terrible sense of devastation and loss, and create additional hazards that can cause lasting harm. Protect your family, your friends, and yourself. Reach out to certified professionals and let them guide you along the way to recovery. Industrial hygienists and related professionals have experience and knowledge that can help keep you and your family safe," noted AIHA's Incident Preparedness and Response Working Group.
Each year thousands of people in multiple states are directly and indirectly impacted by wildfires, forest fires, and bushfires. Even those hundreds of miles away from a burn zone may be at risk as combustion particles are carried by winds, and equipment and materials that were in these environments are transported to other areas for service, repair, and decontamination.
You can reduce the risks to your family, friends, coworkers, pets, and other community members by sending your governor this letter, which urges them to launch or strengthen public awareness campaigns to address urban wildfire cleanup hazards.
To access AIHA's wildfire resource, please visit www.thinkactfiresmart.org.