By Hannah Grover
The western United States has experienced some of the largest fires in recorded history in recent years and the smoke from those blazes has impacted human health and the environment. Now politicians from several of the states impacted by the fires are pushing for increased funding for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to monitor wildfire smoke.
U.S. Sen. Ben Ray Luján, a Democrat from New México, joined five other Democratic senators representing California and Arizona in urging the Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies to increase the funding by $20 million to allow for a more equitable deployment of monitoring equipment.
These senators recently sent a letter to the committee’s leaders.
“The President’s Budget requests $12.7 million for the EPA to improve communications related to wildfires and air quality and to expand local smoke monitoring capacity. However, as we continue to experience historic fire activity and resulting wildfire smoke across the western United States, we must ensure equitable monitoring for all communities. Therefore, we urge you to provide $20 million for this important work, and we ask that you include report language to increase equity and ensure that new monitors are placed in new areas that do not currently have adequate monitoring capabilities,” the letter states.
A fire and smoke map is available for the public to view at airnow.gov.
The Black Fire, which is the second largest in state history, is now more than 262,000 acres and has, at times, led to hazardous air quality in the southwestern region of the state near the Gila National Forest. Meanwhile, the Hermits Peak/Calf Canyon Fire is the largest wildfire in state history, having charred more than 316,000 acres.
As the largest fires in New Mexico’s history are currently burning, the AirNow map on Thursday showed areas like Datil that is impacted by the Black Fire having air that is unhealthy for all people and Peñasco, which is impacted by the Hermits Peak/Calf Canyon Fire, with air quality that is unhealthy for sensitive groups.
Other fires currently burning in New México include the Foster Fire near Rodeo, which has burned more than 7,000 acres, and the Bear Trap Fire in Socorro County, which has burned more than 38,000 acres. The Cerro Pelado Fire, which has burned more than 45,000 acres in northern New Mexico, is now 95 percent contained.
Smoke from wildfires has been linked to pronounced increases in nitrogen emissions and also leads to increased particulate matter in the air. It is also linked to increased ozone levels. These impacts on air quality can lead to respiratory problems.
The impacts can be more severe for some communities. For example, low-income communities with less insurance coverage can be more severely impacted by the wildfire smoke because they have less ability to receive the medical care needed in response to exposure.
“It’s crucial that the federal government keeps an open line of communication with state, local, and Tribal governments to ensure they have the necessary tools to respond to these disasters.”
U.S. Sen. Ben Ray Luján
On June 1, U.S. Senator Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.) met with the Rocky Mountain Incident Management Team 3 at the Cerro Pelado Fire and the Los Alamos National Lab (LANL) Emergency Management Team to discuss fire suppression tactics and burned area recovery efforts for New Mexicans. The Senator met with these experts as part of his ongoing support for their work to curtail the fire’s progress, safely deploy the resources they need, and develop proactive strategies to deter future disasters.
“We all owe a great debt to the innovative incident management leadership teams responding to these fires on the ground,” said Luján. “It was a honor to review their efforts and to discuss how the federal government can continue to provide support in helping New Mexicans recover and rebuild. It’s crucial that the federal government keeps an open line of communication with state, local, and Tribal governments to ensure they have the necessary tools to respond to these disasters. With fire season well underway and extreme drought touching every corner of the state, I am determined to continue supporting recovery efforts and maximize our ability to prevent such destructive fires through technological advances and preparation at every level of government.”
Hannah Grover is Reporter with New Mexico Political Report. This story was originally published by New Mexico Political Report.
For More New México News: ELSEMANARIO.US
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