Rural areas getting more help with wildfires

Rural areas getting more help with wildfires

People living in certain rural parts of Pierce County, including Key Peninsula and Orting, will soon have more government-funded resources to prepare for wildfires thanks to a $1 million grant from the federal Environmental Protection Agency. 

The EPA awarded the money to Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department for a three-year period to protect against wildfires, wildfire smoke, and the health effects associated with both.

“Climate change is linked to longer, warmer, and drier summers that lead to an increase in wildfires,” said Cindy Haverkamp, a coordinator of the project. “This new problem might be a lasting one. We must do all we can to help prepare our communities.” 

The federal funding will support the community-led Wildfire Preparedness Initiative. Officials said the Health Department will work with Pierce Conservation District and community partners on outreach and education, and develop relationships to form coalitions in what are considered underserved rural areas that include Lakebay, Orting, and Eatonville, among other communities. The areas were chosen because they have more people than other areas in Pierce County who are 65 or older, live alone, are disabled, have lower birthweights and life expectancies at birth, and are at increased risk of cardiovascular disease.

Residents will participate in public dialogues about wildfire issues, finishing with a countywide summit meeting.