Clean air centers to provide respite from wildfire smoke

The Valley Air District receive grant funding to turn some public buildings into clean air centers during wildfire events

FRESNO – The Valley Air District will soon establish a network of clean air centers to provide the public with a respite from poor air quality during wildfires. 

The San Joaquin Valley is often blanketed with a layer of smoke for days or weeks during wildfire season. To help residents who otherwise would need to be outside in these conditions, the Air District will use portable air cleaners to create clean air centers at schools, community centers, senior centers, sport centers, libraries and other publicly accessible buildings that would most effectively protect vulnerable populations during wildfire smoke events.

Funding for these centers will come from Assembly Bill 836, which established the Wildfire Smoke Clean Air Centers for Vulnerable Populations Incentive Pilot Program. A total of $750,000 was given to the Valley Air District and will be distributed based on population between Fresno, Madera, Kings, Tulare, Merced, Stanislaus, San Joaquin and Kern counties. 

The Valley Air District and other public health agencies throughout the Valley recommend that residents take health-protective actions to stay safe when smoke from catastrophic wildfires affects the Valley. Some of these actions include staying indoors and using portable air cleaners or high efficiency filters to remove fine particles from the air. However, these precautions aren’t available to many members of vulnerable populations, particularly unhoused people. That’s where the clean air centers will come in.

“The Clean Air Centers Pilot Program will serve as the next key component in protecting Valley residents in the most vulnerable communities”, stated Samir Sheikh, Valley Air District Air Pollution Control Officer. “This program will help to create a network of accessible facilities to find respite from the damaging effects of smoke events for communities that are the most vulnerable and face the greatest challenges in protecting themselves during wildfire events.”

California has seen an increase in the frequency and intensity of wildfires over the past few years. During these times, the San Joaquin Valley is often blanketed with a thick layer of smoke, exposing residents to harmful air toxins. 

For more information on this and other Valley Air District grant programs, visit www.valleyair.org/grants or call 559-230-5800.

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