Disaster Zone

New Hazard to Account for: Smoke Waves

Wildfires are the source, smoke is a much more widespread hazard.

by Eric Holdeman / October 5, 2018

Here in the western United States, smoke from wildfires is becoming a seasonal hazard to be dealt with by emergency managers and health professionals. In the Puget Sound region (think Seattle) we have had two successive summers with significant wildland fire smoke rolling in from Canada. 

Now there is this Harvard study, ‘Smoke waves’ will affect millions in coming decades. King County, my old emergency management stomping ground was called out as one of the specific counties in the USA that will be most impacted by this new regional hazard. 

Interestingly back as a kid growing up in Illinois I had lots of sinus issues and the doctor told my parents they should consider moving west to a place like Arizona for a better climate. We didn't move ... they didn't love me ...

But I'm thinking about why people are moving to the Pacific Northwest. One of the factors they should consider — but likely won't have any visibility on — is this smoke hazard. 

Lastly, at some point in a future "smoke event," I expect with the hazard name of "Smoke Wave" that a "Smoke Tsunami" is in our future. 

Nathaniel Matthews-Trigg, MPH a disaster public educator (new to our field) and someone interested in the impacts of climate, shared the Harvard Study link above.