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Breathe easy - centers free from wildfire smoke being set up on the South Coast

Ross Stone
Clean air centers for those affected by wildfire are being set up

New so-called ‘Clean-Air’ Centers are being set up on the South Coast to provide refuge for those affected by wildfire smoke.

Smoke and ash from wildfires affect our respiratory and cardiovascular systems.

Funding from the California Air Pollution Control Officers Association will be used to set up Clean Air Centers for Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties, for use by the public during wildfire events.

Ali Ghasemi from Ventura County Air Pollution Control District says that that the centers will provide vital sanctuary during wildfire events.

"People didn't know where to go, they were leaving their houses behind and had no specific place for them to go.

"Because of this program, there will be places for people to go," he told KCLU.

The California Air Pollution Control Officers Association (CAPCOA) has $925,000 in total funding for 12 identified regions throughout California to participate in the Wildfire Smoke Clean Air Centers for Vulnerable Populations Incentive Pilot Program. Ventura County and Santa Barbara County together make up one of the 12 regions.

The passage of Assembly Bill 836 in 2019 allocated funding to create a network of “clean air centers” throughout the state to be open to the public during wildfire smoke incidents.

The funds are to be used for conducting HVAC retrofits in buildings, replacing high-efficiency air filters, or purchasing portable air purifiers. Information about the program, along with application forms and instructions, is available on the CAPCOA website.

Per the program guidelines, facilities that receive funding need to be publicly available as clean air centers during wildfire smoke events. The application deadline for these funds is June 30, 2022 and successful applicants will have 24 months to complete their projects. Three types of projects qualify:

1) HVAC upgrades,

2) high efficiency (>MERV 13 or equivalent) air filter purchases, or

3) portable air cleaner purchases*.

Prospective applicants whose facilities meet any of the following criteria are encouraged to apply:

  • Located in/near or intended to serve a low-income community, disadvantaged community, or tribe;
  • Located in schools that meet the criteria outlined in Chapter 2-B,b,2 of the program guidelines (Page 10);
  • Located close to and provide easy access for vulnerable populations;
  • Facilities that have a reasonable capacity to meet the possible clean air center needs of vulnerable populations; or
  • Facilities that are ready for ventilation and filtration installation, upgrades, or retrofits.

VCAPCD is available to help interested entities with their applications, including providing historical Air Quality Index (AQI) information, as required to show the wildfire smoke burden of our region.