As California’s season shifts to the hot summer months, the Authority would like to remind members to actively prepare their agencies to combat the threat of wildfire as well as protect their employees from the harmful effects of wildfire smoke. With the easing of shelter in place directives, Authority members can likely expect increasing numbers of travelers and outdoor activities that could increase the exposure for wildfire.
The California Office of Emergency Services and Cal/Fire remind us of the impending danger in its 2020 annual fire season outlook. The outlook states that the potential for large fires may increase to above normal this spring and summer in response to the possibility of near to above normal rates of offshore wind events.
While wildfires are a natural part of California’s landscape, the fire season in California and across the west is starting earlier and ending later each year. Warmer spring and summer temperatures, reduced snowpack, and earlier spring snowmelt create longer and more intense dry seasons that increase moisture stress on vegetation and make forests more susceptible to sever wildfire. The length of the fire season is estimated to have increased by 75 days across the Sierras and seems to correspond with an increase in the extent of forest fires across the state.
Cal/OSHA’s Emergency Regulation for Protection from Wildfire Smoke has been extended through September 22, 2020. CCR, Title 8, Section 5141.1 applies to most outdoor workplaces where the current Air Quality Index for airborne particulate matter 2.5 micrometers or smaller (PM2.5) is 151 or greater, and where employers should reasonably anticipate that employees could be exposed to wildfire smoke. Employers with workplaces where the regulation applies are expected to comply with the requirements when needed.