Adding Air Quality to Sentinel Sites: Empowering Vulnerable Communities in Fire-prone California

Wildfire smoke and ash are a widespread threat to rural and urban communities, ranging up to hundreds of miles away from active wildfire perimeters. Airborne particulate matter (smoke PM2.5) generated by wildfire smoke adversely impacts human and environmental health. Vulnerable communities are most at risk from increasing wildfire-related air quality impacts because they lack high quality air quality sensor technology, data, and educational resources, and often hold positions as outdoor workers. Sonoma County currently features only one US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) air quality sensor, based in Sebastopol.

Pepperwood is now able to help augment this data by using our Sentinel Site to monitor air quality in our inland valleys and agricultural lands where vulnerable community members often live and work. Pepperwood has earned an award from the EPA to work with several local community service organizations to collect air quality data and access practical and effective solutions for this problem. This project will enable members of Northern Sonoma County’s Latine population to benefit from recent advances in cost-effective air quality sensor networks due to seasonal wildfire and prescribed fire smoke.

Partners in this project include Pepperwood, Universities Space Research Association (USRA), Soluna Outreach Solutions, Bay Area Environmental Research Institute (BAERI), Communities Organized to Prepare for Emergencies (COPE), North Bay Jobs with Justice, Northern Sonoma County Air Pollution Control District (NoSoCoAir), and Nuestra Comunidad.

Photo by Ian Nelson – smoke during a prescribed burn in 2022 at Pepperwood.

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