Wildfire Smoke Preparedness in Community Buildings Grant Program
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- Wildfires and Indoor Air Quality
- Wildfires and Indoor Air Quality in Schools and Commercial Buildings
- Air Grants and Funding
Wildfire Smoke Preparedness in Community Buildings is a new federal grant program to enhance community wildfire smoke preparedness. The program can provide grants to States, federally recognized Tribes, public pre-schools, local educational agencies, and non-profit organizations for the assessment, prevention, control, and/or abatement of wildfire smoke hazards in community buildings and related activities.
These grants are provided under Section 103(b)(3) of the Clean Air Act as supplemented by authority provided in the 2022 Consolidated Appropriations Act and the 2023 Consolidated Appropriations Act to fund abatement activities. The availability of future funding for this program is subject to appropriations from Congress.
Wildfire smoke is a significant public health problem, and climate change accelerates and intensifies this problem. Over the past 20 years, the number of acres burned annually due to wildfires in the U.S. has doubled; in 2022, nearly 70,000 fires burned 7.5 million acres. Smoke plumes can have impacts over a large portion of our population, and the health impacts of wildfire smoke are significant, ranging from eye and throat irritation to asthma attacks, cardiovascular events, and even premature death. Many communities in the U.S. experience smoke from wildfires for days, weeks, or even months in a given year and over multiple fire seasons.
Wildfire smoke can make the outdoor air unhealthy to breathe. Local officials often advise people to stay indoors during a smoke event. However, some of the smoke from outdoors can enter homes and buildings and make it unhealthy to breathe indoor air, too. Buildings are varied and do not all provide the same level of protection against wildfire smoke. Factors such as the type of heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system, HVAC filter ratings and fit, and building tightness and maintenance can all impact how much wildfire smoke enters a building.
This program aims to prioritize projects in communities that have a demonstrated wildfire smoke risk and targets public buildings or buildings that serve the public, and that serve disadvantaged communities or vulnerable populations. Priority project types include:
- Smoke readiness planning.
- Outreach and training.
- Indoor and outdoor air quality monitoring.
- Deployment of portable air cleaners.
- Identification and preparation of cleaner air shelters.
- Significant improvements to buildings such as upgrading heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) units or systems and weatherization necessary to protect occupants from hazards stemming from wildfires.
In early 2024, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) intends to award $10,670,000 in grant funding to nine recipients to support enhancing community wildfire smoke preparedness.
The following organizations have been selected for awards, which are contingent on completion of all legal and administrative requirements relating to the grant:
- Arizona Board of Regents - Arizona State University, AZ
to engage diverse communities in Arizona to develop resilient solutions to the challenges that are posed by wildfires. The project is expected to: (1) engage community members with knowledge of indoor air pollution control and associated health fields; (2) evaluate the resilient capacity of facilities to handle the air pollution and heat impacts of wildfires; and, (3) implement sustainable solutions in facilities to enhance resiliency towards the air quality and heat impacts of wildfires.
- Esperanza Community Housing Corporation, CA
to protect the people of South Los Angeles from wildfire smoke by strengthening wildfire smoke preparedness infrastructure in the Mercado La Paloma building and using the site as the launch pad for a grassroots education and outreach campaign.
- Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, CO
to design and implement a state-wide program to provide outreach, education, and training for local community partners on how to prepare for, and respond to, the public health threat of wildfire smoke.
- Nez Perce Tribe, Tribal land within boundaries of ID
to improve public health protection against smoke from wildfires by strengthening preparedness in community buildings. The project will enhance smoke readiness planning, outreach and training, deploy portable air cleaners, conduct indoor/outdoor air monitoring, complete weatherization, and upgrade HVAC systems. Three community centers, nine public libraries, and four youth centers will be upgraded to provide cleaner air spaces to the public during wildfire smoke events for effective reduction of occupants’ exposure.
- Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services, MT
to engage a variety of partners to increase wildfire smoke awareness, create and pilot a clean air shelter recognition program in six communities for easy replication in other high need areas, create culturally appropriate and tailored messaging on wildfire smoke and air quality, and provide training to building and facility managers on HVAC maintenance and importance of good indoor air quality (IAQ).
- Oregon State University, OR
to develop a set of interventions that includes tailored toolkits and resources that can be used by schools, preschools, and daycares to reduce wildfire smoke exposures and increase community resilience across Oregon.
- Utah Department of Environmental Quality, UT
to enhance communities’ resilience to wildfire smoke by 1) deploying indoor/outdoor low-cost PM2.5 and CO2 sensors at public schools 2) developing air quality alerts, and 3) distributing air cleaners and filters to public schools/preschools and residents in target underserved areas.
- Bellingham School District No.501, WA
to focus on smoke readiness assessment and planning as well as indoor and outdoor air quality monitoring.
- Gonzaga University, WA
for activities that will reduce indoor exposure to pollutants in wildfire smoke in the City of Spokane and in three community centers serving disadvantaged communities.
To inform the development of this funding opportunity, EPA sought input on the design of the program to inform the types of projects and grant recipients that may be eligible for the program. Stakeholder feedback was also considered in setting funding priorities and the number and size of individual awards. Feedback was collected from October 4-November 14, 2022.
EPA received over 200 comments from more than 90 commenters that were responsive to the request for public input. Read a summary of the stakeholder feedback EPA received.