How do wildfires affect agriculture?
Wildfires are increasing in frequency and severity and preparing for them on an annual basis is a new experience for most farmers. Unlike heat illness prevention and pesticide safety, there is no well-established protocol to mitigate the occupational health and safety risks associated with wildfires.
These fires are highly destructive and can damage crops and soil, harm livestock, and create a high-risk environment for agricultural workers. In addition to the dangers of an active fire, wildfire smoke, ash, and chemicals used to treat fires negatively affect air and water quality.
How do wildfires affect the safety and health of agricultural workers?
Farmers and farmworkers are at a greater risk for exposure and may come into more frequent contact with wildfire ash and chemical residue due to their work outdoors and long shifts, both during an active fire and as well as during cleanup and recovery. Lost workdays can affect workers economically as well. Regardless of their proximity to wildfires, agricultural workers can struggle with stress and other mental health issues related to the effects of wildfires.
What is WCAHS doing to address the impact of wildfires on agricultural workers?
WCAHS is working with agricultural stakeholders to conduct research on the impact of wildfires on the safety and health of agricultural workers. Our research with farmers and farmworkers in the Imperial, Central, and Salinas valleys address farmers’ perceptions of the risks to their workforce and farmworkers’ perceptions of personal risk.