Militant Journalism

Seattle organizers prepare for wildfire smoke; city tells homeless ‘stay inside’

Socialists and mutual aid groups around King County, Washington, and in other parts of the state, are gearing up for massive distribution of N95 masks to houseless people in the absence of a clearly articulated government plan for unsafe air conditions. 

“We may see two, three days of pretty smoky air coming next week and that’s something we should be planning for and thinking about right now,” said Phil Swartzendruber, an atmospheric scientist at the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency. (King 5 News)

However, the City of Seattle and King County have not been transparent in announcing the location of safe air shelters or other plans to take care of the literally thousands of people living outside in the city and county. Instead, people are urged to “stay indoors.” Buried deep on the Human Services Department website in a “News & Highlights Blog,” (and cross posted on the “Homeless Response Blog”) HSD announced, “In case of a poor air quality event, HSD has identified temporary shelter locations, such as Fisher Pavilion and Exhibition Hall at Seattle Center, and other locations outside the city core.” (HSD website)

“It sure would be nice to know exactly where those other locations are going to be,” said organizer Andrew Freeman of Party Socialism and Liberation Seattle. PSL Seattle has ordered thousands of N95 masks with plans to distribute to people living outdoors in encampments and vehicles. “Along with giving people masks, we’d like to be able to give out information about where they can go if the air conditions become unbearable, even with a mask.” 

Socialists and mutual aid groups are frantically fundraising and sourcing N95 masks all over the I-5 corridor in anticipation of the impact of a longer-than-usual wildfire season due to drought. Freeman added: “A government that was truly operating in the interest of the people would have a more clearly articulated plan to keep people safe during these entirely predictable weather situations. Ordinary working people shouldn’t have to organize a GoFundMe to give masks to their unhoused neighbors. The city and county should be taking care of the situation; not only masks and clean air shelters, but also safe, decent housing.” 

To help with the emergency mask distribution, reach out to PSL Seattle on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, at [email protected] or 425-310-2576 or make a donation to help buy more masks. 

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