Colorado to reduce indoor air pollution in schools, public buildings from wildfire smoke events through EPA grant


The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is expected to award $10.67 million in grant funding to nine selected recipients across the country to enhance community wildfire smoke preparedness.

Of these recipients, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) is anticipating a $1,895,705 grant to design a statewide program for wildfire smoke awareness and preparation.

The CDPHE will use the EPA funds to provide outreach, education and training for local community partners on how to prepare for, and respond to, the public health threat of wildfire smoke.

This includes leveraging the Clean Air for Schools program, which provides air cleaners and indoor air quality monitors to K-12 schools, where the CDPHE will partner with local communities to develop response plans for wildfire smoke events.

Some of the expected outcomes include smoke readiness plans, providing technical training on ventilation and filtration strategies, preparing school buildings to serve as “Community Cleaner Air Shelters,” and enabling indoor air quality monitoring in public school buildings to understand wildfire smoke impacts and evaluate effective responses.

With more than 880,000 kids enrolled in Colorado public schools, developing wildfire smoke preparedness programs improves indoor air quality and reduces public health risks for many students.

“Colorado is no stranger to wildfires, and now more than ever, communities who once seemed unlikely to experience wildfire are now front line communities,” said EPA Regional Administrator KC Becker. “This grant will provide important resources to communities to build awareness and develop plans for wildfire smoke events that will protect public health and save lives.”

Additional states in EPA Region 8 receiving funding for wildfire smoke preparedness include Montana and Utah, which will be awarded to their public health entities.

Wildfire smoke is a significant public health problem, especially in western states like Colorado. Smoke plumes can adversely affect a large portion of our population, with health impacts ranging from eye and throat irritation to asthma attacks, cardiovascular events and even premature death.

Local officials often advise people to stay indoors during a smoke event. However, some of the smoke from outdoors can enter homes and buildings and can also make indoor air hazardous to breathe. Because buildings vary in their design and construction, they also vary in their levels of protection against wildfire smoke.

These grants are provided under Section 103(b)(3) of the Clean Air Act as supplemented by authority provided in the 2022 Consolidated Appropriations Act and the 2023 Consolidated Appropriations Act to fund abatement activities.