Wildfire impacts many aspects of life for Washingtonians. These impacts vary based on age, employment, housing, location, and more. Smoke from wildfires creates major health concerns. People who work outdoors, unhoused people, those with preexisting health conditions, children, and the elderly are especially vulnerable.
Just as smoke impacts are multifaced, so is addressing them. In the past year, Washington Conservation Action has engaged in state-led efforts to identify communities that are at greatest risk from wildfire smoke and to support outdoor workers getting the protection they need. We have been monitoring and participating in processes for Improving Air Quality in Overburdened Communities led by the Department of Ecology. We have worked to protect workers through the Wildfire Smoke Workplace Safety & Health Rulemaking led by the Department of Labor and Industries.
Looking at wildfire and communities holistically helps communities to address the risks and to adapt effectively. One exciting effort WCA has been involved in recently is the development of a climate planning element that will be included in future comprehensive plans. Wildfire is one of the many climate impacts considered in the recent addition to the state’s land use planning law, the Growth Management Act. WCA strongly pushed to include planning for wildfire in the new law that requires the GMA to consider climate. Where and how communities grow significantly influences wildfire risk and impact. That, in turn, affects the health and safety of people and nature.
We also participated in a Department of Commerce process to develop strategies that counties can adopt when updating their comprehensive plans. We recommended several ways to address wildfire risk in comprehensive plan updates. These included how counties can connect existing plans like Community Wildfire Protection Plans and Hazard Mitigation Plans and use them to inform land use planning efforts.
Want to get involved? You can! Counties (and cities with populations of more than 6,000) will be updating their comprehensive plans in 2024-2027. Learn more about when your county will be doing its update. Get in touch with your local planning department to let them know you want to see wildfire in the plan.
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