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Boise State to address health and economic impacts of wildfire smoke at inaugural event

This summer’s catastrophic wildfires across California, Oregon and Washington terrorized and displaced thousands of individuals, and its long-term effects are more than meets the eye. As western wildfires become larger and more intense each year, Boise State is providing a platform to address the health and economic impacts of wildfire smoke. The community is invited to attend the first annual Rocky Mountain Regional Wildfire Smoke Symposium. Originally scheduled for last March, it will take place virtually from 8 am.-5 p.m. Friday, Nov. 13.

Luke Montrose, photo by Dominic Duarte and Patrick Sweeney

“Wildfire smoke knows no boundaries and does not stop at state lines,” said Luke Montrose, assistant professor in the Department of Community and Environmental Health. “Here in Idaho, we were inundated for days this summer with smoke that was produced in states to our west. Western fires are getting larger and more frequent and this means we will continue to be impacted by smoke.”

The symposium also is an opportunity to learn how communities in the Rocky Mountain Region can improve emergency readiness, promote health and inform best practices for education, outreach and messaging.

John R. Balmes, MD
John Balmes

John Balmes, a professor of medicine at University of California, San Francisco, and professor of environmental health sciences at the University of California, Berkeley, will deliver the keynote. Balmes is an expert on respiratory, cardiovascular and metabolic health effects of air pollutants and occupational agents.

“What does this chronic smoke exposure mean for our health as a community and what can be done to limit the impact?” Montrose posed. “More research is needed and it will be important to consider the effects of smoke on communities as well as those who work directly in the smoke like wildland firefighters.”

The morning session includes presentations on public health and community preparedness followed by occupation health and risk mitigation in the afternoon, with a virtual poster session during the lunch break. The final item on the agenda is a panel discussion featuring current and former wildland firefighters. Researchers, health professionals, firefighters, and regional partners are encouraged to attend a virtual happy hour and networking session from 3:30-5 p.m.

Montrose and Boise State collaborated with the University of Montana and the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare to produce the symposium, and they view this year’s event as only scratching the surface when it comes to connecting with more communities in the Mountain West.

“We hope this meeting occurs yearly and continues to foster relationships between communities, researchers, health professionals and wildland firefighter personnel. We anticipate this regional meeting will be hosted annually by different universities representing all of the Rocky Mountain states,” he said.

Registration is open now and costs $15 for students, and $30 for all others. Those who registered for the event in March automatically will be registered and should receive an email confirmation.

For more information, please contact Montrose at