As early as July 28, Council President Rebecca Kaplan asked the City Administrator for a report on City plans for clean air buildings in the event of wildfire-induced bad air quality, emails recently made public reveal.
In the email, which predates the "lightning complex" fires by three weeks, Kaplan wrote she was concerned about smoke exposure during Covid when public buildings like libraries that the public might normally use for respite would remain closed. In the July 28 email, Kaplan asked Administrator Ed Reiskin, “with most public buildings closed, what is the plan in terms of where people can go, including those who are unhoused, on days of high smoke/poor air quality?”
Reiskin replied ”should [air quality] now, or in a future wildfire event, reach an unsafe level, we would initiate interventions (e.g., clean-air shelter space, N-95 mask distribution). We are not at that level now, but are wrapping up our planning efforts with regard to shelter space.”
In a letter attached to next Tuesday’s City Council agenda item on clean air sites, Kaplan says she formally scheduled Reiskin’s report on actions the City Administration had taken. The report, however, was produced by Interim Fire Chief Melinda Drayton, in her capacity as the director of OFD’s Emergency Management Services Division, not Reiskin.
The report lists potential actions, sites and protocols the EMSD have been developing in case of city-wide need of cooling centers and clean air sites. But the report contains no concrete actions or dates when the plans and sites would be available. The report proposes an air quality trigger, such as 250 AQI, but also states that the triggers are "still under evaluation.” The report also characterizes the sites as “proposed” and states “EMSD is in the process of performing feasibility assessments, activation protocols, and cost analysis for activating those facilities.”
In the letter, Kaplan complains about the vague report, “we cannot tell if you have any plans to open any [clean air sites], nor have you provided information about what is needed to open them. I am concerned that it appears you have created a standard for opening of such centers that is designed to actually not open them[...]”
In an email interview with Hyphenated Repubic, Kaplan stressed that implementing the clean air spaces is a City Administration responsibility, not specific to the Fire Department. “My request for the info was to the admin.” Kaplan also suggested that such actions were already in the power of the City Administrator to carry out. “I asked [Reiskin] about this months ago, and he said they were working on it. He did NOT say it was waiting pending further Council approvals [emphasis Kaplan].”
Kaplan also stressed that Covid funds allocated during budget discussions this Summer were to be used for such purposes as clean air sites. “[funds for] upgrading city facilities for COVID would include providing safe shelter clean air buildings for the public.”
This is a developing story, check here for updates.