Seattle to open smoke shelters for 'new normal' summer fires

ABC News | 6/19/2019 | Staff
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Ahead of a Western wildfire season expected to be again worse than average, officials in Seattle announced Wednesday that five city buildings would be outfitted to serve as havens where residents can go to breathe clean air.

The move is in response to several years marked by thick smoke hanging over the city from summer wildfires, which officials and scientists have unequivocally connected to the slow-motion of the effects of climate change.

Seattle - Officials - Technology - Havens - Community

Seattle officials demonstrated the technology at one of the havens — a community center in the city's Rainier Beach neighborhood — pointing out air sensors mounted on the wall, and describing how the building's existing ventilation system had been retrofitted with special filters to keep it positively pressurized with clean air.

Along with the Rainier Beach facility, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan said at least two of the facilities could potentially be scaled up to shelter the city's homeless population if air quality sinks far enough during the summer to endanger those unable to retreat indoors.

Durkan - Days - Air - Quality - Levels

"We have to prepare as if this will be the new normal," Durkan said, adding that 2018 saw 24 days with hazardous air quality levels due to wildfire smoke, including several reaching extreme levels.

That reflects a broader shift being felt across the American and Canadian West, and likely to continue in coming years, according to experts and federal data.

Miles - Kilometers - US - States - Figures

In 2017 and 2018, 15,625 and 13,750 square miles (40,469 and 35,612 square kilometers) burned in total in the US, mostly in western states, according to federal figures, compared to a 10-year average of 10,937 square miles (28,327 square kilometers) per year, while the...
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