The New Normal

Liam Moriarty/JPR News

West Coast businesses that depend on the summertime tourist dollar took a big hit from this years’ wildfires and smoke.

The same thing happened last year. And two years before that. Now, the idea that smoky summers may become the norm is beginning to take hold, and tourist operators -- and the towns that rely on them -- are looking for ways to adapt.


webcam

Increasingly, wildfires and the smoke they cause are becoming the daily reality of summer in southern Oregon and northern California. On Saturday, several hundred people gathered at Southern Oregon University to hear a series of panel discussions on how local communities could respond.

Noa Traylor of Weed, California
April Ehrlich | JPR News

Dozens of wildfires are filling the West Coast skies with thick smoke. In Southern Oregon, unhealthy air has forced people to wear smoke-filtering masks almost every day for more than a month. It has become part of the norm.

But in recent weeks, people have gotten tired of wearing the plain white paper masks every day. Instead, they’re investing in nicer ones made of fabric, and some even have artsy designs.

Jes Burns / EarthFix

There’s broad agreement that fire plays a vital role in forest ecology in the West. Many of our problems with severe wildfires can be traced, at least in part, to a century of putting fires out, rather than letting them clean up excess forest fuels.

Now, there’s a need to deliberately set controlled fires to help re-establish a more natural fire pattern. 

But after a summer in which residents and tourists alike choked on foul air and many events were canceled due to heavy smoke, are people ready to put up with more smoke from prescribed burns?