The 2021 fire season in California is already being viewed by many with alarm. Widespread drought across the region has produced an exceptionally large amount of dry fuel, particularly in mountainous areas of Northern California, increasing risks for multiple large-scale fires.
The fire-fighting workforce, which depends in large part on labor from the state’s prison population, has been reduced drastically given the impact of Covid-19. Social vulnerabilities have been exacerbated by the pandemic, and the related economic crisis, alongside multiple years of repeated wildfire impacts in communities across the state. Meanwhile, the risk of routine “public safety power shutoff” (PSPS) events continues to rise, as utilities attempt to manage the risk of electrical lines and high winds in wildland areas, which have ignited many of the recent wildfires. Health care in the state, particularly for the most vulnerable, remains exposed to these multiple risks from fires and power outages, and requires significant new creativity and collaborations to improve equitable care and community resilience.
This panel brings together key members of the research, public sector, and health care communities to discuss the prognosis for the 2021 fire season, along with new ideas, research and data to promote increased readiness for wildfire prevention and response in the face of new challenges posed by power outages and the consequences of the pandemic.
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- Mathew Kiang Instructor, Department of Epidemiology and Population Health, Stanford University School of Medicine
- Joan A. Casey Assistant Professor, Department of Environmental Health Sciences, Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health
- Eric Sergienko County Health Officer, Mariposa County Health & Human Services Agency
- Mike Witte Chief Medical Officer, California Primary Care Association