Congressman to Examine Air Quality, Health Impacts of Wildfire Smoke

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U.S. Congressman Greg Walden (R-Hood River), Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, announced a hearing for Thursday, Sept. 13. The hearing will be held before the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on the Environment, and is titled, “Air Quality Impacts of Wildfires: Mitigation and Management Strategies.”

Greg Walden

In light of the devastating wildfires ravaging Oregon and much of the West this summer, Walden will examine the impacts that wildfire smoke has on public health and local communities, and the air quality impacts from wildfire emissions. Walden will also look at how increasing forest management activities, such as prescribed burns and mechanical thinning, can reduce the severity and size of future wildfires.

“Oregonians and people across the West are suffering through yet another summer of air-choking smoke from wildfires,” said Walden. “As a result, families are trapped in their homes and breathing through masks, local businesses are taking a hit financially, and we have been robbed of the enjoyment of Oregon’s outdoors.”

Walden has invited State Sen. Herman Baertschiger from Grants Pass to testify during the hearing on Thursday. Baertschiger serves as the chair of the bipartisan fire caucus in the Oregon state legislature and has over 40 years of firsthand experience in wildland fire and forest management activities.

Walden called attention to the air quality, environmental, and health impacts of wildfire smoke during an October 2017 hearing on this issue. Studies by the Nature Conservancy, Forest Service, and others have found that active management of fire fuels can reduce the size and intensity of wildfires by up to 70 percent, and can reduce carbon emissions from wildfires by up to 85 percent.

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