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An open letter to California and Oregon elected officials from the husband of a woman killed by wildfire smoke toxins
Photo and editorial by Capt. William E. Simpson II - USMM Ret., Founder and Executive Director, Wild Horse Fire Brigade
Photo: This family of wild horses in Cascade Siskiyou National Monument (CSNM) cost-effectively manages a large area of reduced wildfire fuels year-round in a manner that has many environmental and ecological benefits to the forest. Horse grazing in the CSNM was instrumental in helping CALFIRE's suppression of the 2018 Klamathon Fire, which threatened to destroy Ashland, Oregon. Unlike ruminant grazers (cattle, sheep, goats and deer) that digest seeds of native plants and grasses, ending their life-cycles, horses pass a majority of seeds they consume in their dung, which completes the life-cycles of the flora, and benefits all of the fauna in the ecosystem, including pollinators.
June 17, 2024 -- Wildfire is arguably the most serious bi-partisan issue we all face. The fire and toxins in the smoke kill indiscriminately, and do so across county, district and state lines, without mercy. A new report out now proves the toxins in the smoke from wildfire AND prescribed fires are killing thousands of people!  

“Pollution from California wildfires is estimated to have claimed more than 52,000 lives over about a decade, according to a new study published in Science Advances. Oregon is also suffering similar per-capita deaths from toxins in smoke. The study led by researchers at the University of California Los Angeles focused on emissions of PM2.5 – fine particulate matter that can travel deep into the respiratory tract – from 2008 to 2018.
Researchers found that the particulate matter released by fires had a more profound impact on some communities than the actual flames themselves.  The group’s findings revealed that at least 52,000 premature deaths were attributed to the pollution, with associated economic costs estimated to be about $432 billion.
My wife was killed by smoke toxins from the Klamathon Fire of 2018, so I am acutely aware of how deadly the novel toxins in wildfire smoke are. Here is an except from her death certificate.
Photo: Certificate by the Oregon Medical Examiner
On June 12th, 2024, ABC News KOLO in Reno NV produced a news report explaining how we can cost-effectively reduce wildfire and toxic smoke:
How many more people must die? How many more $-billions will Oregon and California taxpayers have to fund to fight a losing battle before we implement a proven solution that provides prevention and mitigation of wildfires and toxic smoke?  
There's Good News! There is a scientifically supported (See Refs below), empirically proven, cost-effective solution for preventing and also reducing the frequency, size and intensity of wildfires!  
and cost-effective use of the 68,000 wild horses currently being held in taxpayer funded off-range holding facilities. 
Implementation of large herbivores (excess wild horses from the Bureau of Land Management) to engage in wildfire grazing in remote wilderness areas where wildfire management is more difficult and costly, is a smart
It’s a scientific fact that by controlling the grass and brush on the landscape, which data shows are key fuels in over 60% of all wildfires, we can prevent many fires from taking hold, and also reduce the frequency, size and intensity of wildfires, which in turn provides many secondary benefits:
  1. Less smoke and premature deaths and related $-billions in economic impacts; and,
  2. Preservation of forests and wildlife habitat; and,
  3. Reduced post-wildlife erosion and damage to fisheries and watersheds; and,
  4. More carbon sequestered through return of vegetative material into soils via dung, and via re-seeding-re-growth of plants and grasses, resulting in reduced carbon release; and,
  5. Cover crops reseeded/maintained by horses (via dung) reduce soil erosion, enhance ground water retention and percolation of precipitation and snow melt. Horse droppings containing un-digested seeds also effectively reseed and condition fire-scarred landscapes/soils with seeds from neighboring native plants and grasses, and add humus and microbiome to fire-pasteurized soils; and,
  6. Reseeded plants and grasses from horse dung benefits other herbivores such as deer and elk, as well as small mammals and insects (pollinators); and,
  7. Horses make trees fire resilient by removal of fire ladders (dead limbs are broken-off via scratching of horses), grazing fuels under trees, and fertilizing the trees they use for shelter. 
William E. Simpson II is an ethologist living among and studying free-roaming native species American wild horses. William is the award-winning producer of the micro-documentary film 'Wild Horses'. He is the author of a new study about the behavioral ecology of wild horses, two published books and more than 500 published articles on subjects related to wild horses, wildlife, wildfire, and public land (forest) management. He has appeared on NBC NEWS, ABC NEWS, CBS NEWS, and has been a guest on numerous talk radio.  Check out his Film Freeway account for films, studies, TV & radio interviews, and more here:
The opinions in this editorial reflect the views of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of East County Magazine. To submit an editorial for consideration, contact

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"My sincere condolences on your wife's passing"

Pollution adding to the fine particulates we breathe every day also include vehicle exhaust and tires, dust containing numerous carcinogens and toxins blown into the air by the many thousands of leaf blowers, outdoor BBQ's, restaurants, etc. and more must be done to abate this problem as well. Taking a walk can be very detrimental to one's health despite the benefits because of the pollution. If you can smell it, you're breathing it deep into your lungs even though you can't see the pollutant. From there the fine particulates eventually cause numerous health issues over time, including a slow end to living. Seasonal allergies is another example of something we breathe in that's from various plant life. We can't see the pollen, yet it can cause much suffering for many of us. Yes, wildfire smoke is very dangerous to breathe, and not always seen or smelled. The long term affects of toxic, fine particulates from multiple sources is a huge medical health issue, yet will our politicians actually do anything to fix it ? Complaints often fall upon deaf ears...