Opinion: Wildfires though the health lens

Op-ed by Dr. Pragya Rai
Published in The Spokesman-Review, March 18, 2022

Like the proverbial story of the six blind men and the elephant, climate change impacts are nuanced. Last summer, a heat wave in Spokane reaching temperatures as high as 109 degrees, and the wildfires that paralleled the event, led to harm and destruction. The city of Spokane opened multiple cooling shelters, provided water and temporary relief. The Spokesman-Review reported 20 heat-related deaths, with the majority occurring among those living in houses without air-conditioning. The Washington Department of Health reported 100 heat-related deaths between June 26 and July 2.

Health risks associated with exposure to wildfires are experienced directly by people who live in the vicinity, as well as by firefighters. Immediate injuries such as from burns, smoke inhalation, eye irritation and heat-related illness may occur. The displacement from one’s homes and community leads to…..READ FULL ARTICLE>


Pragya Rai, MD completed her Pediatric residency at The Brookdale Hospital and Medical Center in Brooklyn, NY followed by a fellowship in Pediatric Pulmonology and she is a 2022 Climate & Health Equity Fellow. She has over a decade of experience working as a pediatric pulmonologist in eastern Washington and attributes her clinical experience with patients as a gravitating force toward a better understanding of the health impacts of climate change. She is actively involved in the WA Pediatricians for climate action and 350 Spokane, a volunteer-run non-profit.