AIHA Offers Assistance to Oklahoma Following Wildfires

Published May 9, 2018

Last week, AIHA President Deborah Imel Nelson sent a letter to Oklahoma Governor Mary K. Fallin offering AIHA’s assistance, resources, and recommendations for protecting the health and safety of residents and recovery workers following an outbreak of wildfires across the state. Media reports indicate that the fires, which began in mid-April, have killed hundreds of cattle and blackened approximately 350,000 acres in Oklahoma. On April 12, Governor Fallin declared a state of emergency for 52 Oklahoma counties.

Nelson’s letter informs Governor Fallin of the wildfire-related resources on AIHA’s website, including the guidance document “Health and Safety Issues in Natural Disasters” (PDF), the web page on wildfire-specific hazards, and the white paper “Industrial Hygienists’ Roles and Responsibilities in Emergency Preparedness and Response” (PDF). The letter also notifies the Governor of specific hazards facing recovery workers who are moving through burned structures and recommends criteria for evaluating contractors to perform cleanup work.

“Communities downwind from the fire may be affected as feather-light ash and other smoke components produced by the intense heat of the combustion are lofted into the air and travel great distances by prevailing winds,” Nelson writes. “These potentially hazardous materials remain in and traverse the atmosphere for varying lengths of time, resulting in possible widespread and prolonged public exposures.”

View Nelson’s letter as a PDF.