The San Francisco skyline is engulfed in an orange wildfire haze.

California Wildfires

Climate Justice

Science tells us that changes in climate create hotter, drier conditions, which lead to longer and more active fire seasons. When wildfires occur, land is often evacuated by emergency personnel, and agricultural workers are sometimes encouraged by their employers to work on that land despite the evacuation orders. California has passed a bill providing guardrails for how this should be done, and counties throughout the state are creating programs based on this legislation. At the Human Rights Center, we are conducting research, interviews, and analysis to provide policy recommendations that we determine are likely to protect the health, physical safety, and livelihood of agricultural workers in wildfire evacuation zones in California, with an initial focus on Sonoma County’s program. 

We are also collaborating with UC Cooperative Extension – UC Agriculture and Natural Resources and the School of Public Health to conduct a survey of one thousand farmworkers in Sonoma about their experiences working during wildfires, and the short-term and long-term impacts of wildfires on their health. This survey will be accompanied by a series of interviews with health professionals, as well as government and community leaders about Sonoma’s wildfire evacuation access program. Our analysis of these findings will directly inform recommendations on interventions to further strengthen protections for agricultural workers returning to wildfire areas across California.

Trees are silhouetted against a red sky.
San Francisco on September 9, 2020, after the labor day fires. Image by Patrick Perkins via Unsplash.


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