A way forward

About this project

The smoke inhalation from long-burning forest fires in northern California extracts a huge, frightening toll on residents’ respiratory health. We measure the ill effects and suggest potential remedies.


  • The smoke inhalation from long-burning forest fires in northern California extracts a huge, frightening toll on residents’ respiratory health.
  • We measure the ill effects and suggest potential remedies.


Hoopa tribe leads battle against smoke's ill effects

Last summer when the smoke rolled into the Hoopa Valley National Indian Reservation near Humboldt, members of the tribal leadership responded quickly.

How to protect yourself from smoke

Minimize exposure The following tips are courtesy of the Shasta County Public Health Department: Stay indoors with windows and doors closed.

Mountain residents have no doubt smoke made them sick

Deana Schmidt, 61, has lived in Lewiston since 1979. She bitterly remembers the chaos of the 1999 Lewiston Fire, a Bureau of Land Management-controlled burn that escaped containment and forced the evacuation of the town. But she says the ever-...

There's still much to learn about long-term health effects of last year's fires

The smoke crept in during the final weeks of June. From the blazing forest, it reached its ashy brown fingers into Frank Walden's garden, choking his corn and poisoning his apple trees.

What this fire series is all about

This year's fire season is about to rekindle long-running debates about how to prevent, suppress and recover from wildfire.

Burning forest underbrush could serve dual purpose

Thick underbrush and small trees in the north state's woods have the potential to pay for their own clearing.

Could other north state communities follow example of Weaverville Community Forest?

The best way to reduce fire danger in the woods close to a town is to put the community in control of forest management. That's the theory behind a unique program called the Weaverville Community Forest in Trinity County. "We went at it with the...

Experts disagree on methods for preventing catastrophic forest fires

Flames from last year's Moon Fire almost burned down Mike Boswell's home on Rector Creek Road near Ono.

Lawsuits stall Quincy Library Group vision

Clearing 1,700 miles of fuel breaks would be a massive task.

Are firefighting 'air shows' effective?

Where there's raging wildfire, there are often calls from the public for an air show - a sky full of air tankers and helicopters squelching the flames - state and fire officials say.

Cal Fire, Forest Service, have different missions

The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection is so focused on fire that in 2007, the agency switched its identifier, or official nickname, from CDF to Cal Fire. Meanwhile, the U.S. Forest Service sticks to its persona as land managers...

Firefighting methods questioned

Last summer Rayola Pratt experienced the fear that haunts so many in the north state. Wildfire tore through the woods near her home off Rock Creek Road west of Redding.

Fires reignite burnout controversy

William Bradford had banked on the timber harvested from a stretch of private forest land his family has owned for the past 50 years as a nest egg.

Volunteers at one time played role in fighting wildfires

Larry Woodfill remembers when fighting the north state's fires was just about everybody's job.

Forest debates rage on after a fire

The visual impact of a wildfire once the flames are gone can be just as dramatic as the blaze itself. Trees transformed into leaning snags. Brush left leafless and black. Still more trees toppled, turned to logs.

Recovery from past fires may hold lessons for future

Just because a fire burns through an area, it doesn't necessarily mean that another blaze won't come through a few years later and torch the land a second time. In fact, there are several recent examples in the north state.

Salvage logging costs pushed up by sour economy, lawsuits

The U.S. Forest Service announced plans last November for a 155-acre salvage logging sale, saying the dead trees left on land torched by wildfires near Junction City and Big Bar could fuel future fire storms.

Semantics enter fire recovery debate

Catastrophic wildfire. It's a term that carries a heavy political load in the debates about how to manage a forest after fire has swept through.

Policymakers need to find new solutions to wildfire risk

Many environmentalists look back 200 years ago and yearn for the majestic forests that grew before the European settlement of California.

There's little agreement among policymakers on solutions to reducing fire risk

A year after wildfire killed 13 people and blackened hundreds of thousands of acres of forestland - costing nearly $170 million to fight - the north state's woods stand primed to burn again.

Impact of "Fire"

“Fire: A Way Forward,” published April 19, 2009, in the Redding Record Searchlight, examined the way the U.S. Forest Service battle forest fires, and concluded that new techniques could make an air quality difference for nearby communities.

Redding officials to have a role in forest-fire strategies

This story, which appeared in the Redding Record Searchlight on Aug.


Dylan Darling

Ryan Sabalow

Lauren M. Whaley

Lauren M. Whaley

Lauren M. Whaley is a photographer, radio producer and print reporter specializing in topics related to mental illness, reproductive health care and health disparities. She is also a childbirth photographer.

This year, she is working on a series about how low-income parents access care for perinatal mental illnesses. The project is funded by the Rosalynn Carter Fellowships for Mental Health Journalism.

Whaley was a 2016-17 Knight Science Journalism Fellow at the Massachusetts Institute for Technology.

Her work has been recognized by the Association of Health Care Journalists, the Scripps Howard Foundation and the Public Radio Exchange (PRX) STEM story project. She has contributed radio, video, photography and written stories to KQED Public Radio, Southern California Public Radio, the San Jose Mercury News, the New York Times and other media outlets. For six years, I worked as the Center for Health Reporting's multimedia journalist, based in Los Angeles. She is a past president of the national organization Journalism and Women Symposium (JAWS) and spent her early 20s leading canoe expeditions for young women, including a solo-led 45-trip in the Canadian Arctic. 

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