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Spokane consortium receives federal money to address wildfire smoke

Doug Nadvornick/Spokane Public Radio

The federal government is awarding $1.1 million to Gonzaga’s Climate Institute to help Spokane better prepare for wildfire smoke.

Institute Director Brian Henning says the money from the Environmental Protection Agency will help to fund the Smoke Ready Spokane project. Some of the money is for public education.

“The Spokane Regional Clean Air Agency is going to partner with the Spokane Regional Health District to do an educational and awareness campaign for two years and they’re going to use that money to do information about how families can protect themselves, what the health effects of wildfire smoke are,” he said.

Henning says the University of Washington will do a community survey to understand the public’s perceptions of the most acute smoke-related problems and convene a town hall-style symposium to talk about them. He says the goal is to guide future private sector and government action.

The city of Spokane is also involved. Grant money will help the city improve the HVAC system at the Northeast Community Center to help it filter out more pollutants and serve as a place where people can gather during times when the air is smoky.

“There need to be opportunities for community members to be able to go to a safe place,” he said.

Henning says the institute will work with Gonzaga’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences to install indoor and outdoor sensors at the community centers and a real-time live dashboard with information about the air quality there. He says that will build upon the current county-state smoke monitoring network of outdoor sensors in Spokane County.

“What we have less of is indoor air quality monitoring and that’s a big gap,” he said. “This isn’t going to fix that problem overnight,” but he says it will start to develop an understanding of what indoor air quality is like in public places where people are directed to during times of elevated air pollution.

Henning says the institute’s smoke project builds upon its larger focus on climate change, including recent work to understand and act upon the factors that make Spokane so hot in the summer, especially in areas where there’s a lack of tree canopy.

Doug Nadvornick has spent most of his 30+-year radio career at Spokane Public Radio and filled a variety of positions. He is currently the program director and news director. Through the years, he has also been the local Morning Edition and All Things Considered host (not at the same time). He served as the Inland Northwest correspondent for the Northwest News Network, based in Coeur d’Alene. He created the original program grid for KSFC. He has also served for several years as a board member for Public Media Journalists Association. During his years away from SPR, he worked at The Pacific Northwest Inlander, Washington State University in Spokane and KXLY Radio.