Boise State Research Shows How Idahoans Perceive The Risks Of Wildfire Smoke
If a wildfire was threatening your home, would you evacuate? What if the threat was only about the smoke, would your answer change?
It’s logical that breathing in wildfire smoke is unhealthy, but how, if at all, are individuals adjusting their outdoor activity when a fire is near? That’s the question Boise State researchers tried to find out.
“On a worldwide basis, there’s an estimate that about 340,000 deaths annually are attributed to smoke,” said Jennifer Pierce, one of the researchers at Boise State University.
She and her colleague Moji Sadegh spoke with Idaho Matters Tuesday about their new research on how Idahoans perceive the risks of smoke.
Sadegh says smoke is a bigger threat than the fire itself, which is usually where public panic and media attention is focused.
“Fire happens in one place, it has an immediate impact,” he said. “But smoke stays for weeks to months.”
They surveyed more than 2,000 people, in person around Boise and online through Boise State affiliates.
90% of people they surveyed reported that they have experienced symptoms from smoke like itchy eyes or a sore throat. But almost 40% of people did nothing to limit outside activities in these conditions.
Pierce and Sadegh say this research is just the beginning of understanding how communities should prepare for the risks of smoke. For them, outreach is also important, so communities in the west can plan for worsening fires, and more importantly, smoke.
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