West Coast Wildfires a National Issue

Aug 31, 2021

Wildfires are clouding skies for all Americans. It doesn’t matter where you live or where the wildfire is, smoke gets in everyone’s lives.

In Minnesota, children in St. Paul were dealing with large department stores that were burned to the ground in violent protests. Summer promised hope of a respite until wildfires and air quality dampened camping and travel plans. With 103 large fires across 14 states, finding safe outdoor activities can be difficult, especially for anyone with respiratory issues common with many COVID-19 survivors. In Idaho, Camp Sweyolakan was forced to close early. In Denver, camping trips were canceled because of unhealthy air quality. Record heat produced a spike in smog that, when mixed with wildfire smoke, creates a toxic blend that can trigger heart and lung problems in healthy people. In Wisconsin, a COVID survivor with compromised lungs finds it increasingly difficult to breathe, and it’s not because of COVID. Idaho’s sleepaway camp has been closed in both of the past two summers because of smoke from wildfires. When the sky is hidden behind a haze made up of tiny bits of charred vegetation and particles from all the construction materials that melt and burn when homes are destroyed, air is unhealthy. Being outdoors allows particles to enter people’s eyes, lungs and bloodstream, and affects brain chemistry.

With unhealthy air forcing people indoors, there has been a rise in COVID cases in areas where smoke was persistent. Some California counties saw a 50% increase. Long-term exposure to these pollutants can damage a child’s immune system. Parents have to choose: do they expose their children to harmful air particles or COVID? One parent’s solution: pitch a tent in the living room and camp with the air purifier running.

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Swan Score: D

Property Owners

Trees absorb carbon. Planting a tree can help clean the air.

Fire Protection Association

Firefighters who live where they work find clean air is rare.


More trees are needed to offset carbon in the atmosphere.

Insurance Industry

Smoke claims are costly to remediate and vulnerable to fraud.

Government Entities

Government officials must monitor air quality to protect citizens.

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