HEPA Air Cleaner Loan Program – Helping communities be more prepared for smoke

Written by Sam Berry

Since 2018 the Forest Stewards Guild has been running a HEPA Air Cleaner Loan program in Northern New Mexico to support individuals during smoke impacts from fires. Although at first glance this seems like a program that a public health organization should take on instead of a forestry-oriented one, it fits perfectly into our mission of building Fire Adapted Communities, that guides most of our work in the Southwest. Under the right conditions we view prescribed fire, managed wildfires, and some of the inevitable wildfires as crucial to restoring the function and health of our fire adapted forests. Accordingly, our long-term goal with this program is to assist communities that live in fire adapted forests to be prepared to deal with smoke from these fires as well.

Although our program is relatively small in scale, our program has been successful at providing the support we can to the individuals that need it. An unanticipated success of this program is that we’ve also been able to communicate with a new segment of communities about the reasons we’re using prescribed fire. Another success has been partnering with local partners to run the programs. This has allowed them to conduct their own specialized outreach and creatively implement the program to fit their needs. We have also partnered with Winix USA the company whose filters we use, to further support our program.

This recent blog post on the Fire Adapted Learning Network Blog page goes into much greater detail about the background, challenges, and successes of the program. Also feel free to contact me at sam@forestguild.org if you have any questions or would like to set up your own program.