USDA Forest Service

Pacific Northwest Research Station

Pacific Northwest Research Station
333 SW First Ave.
Portland, OR 97204

(503) 808-2100

US Forest Service

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Home > Research > Fire >Smoke

» Understanding Smoke Dynamics

Smoke can pose severe public health risks, particularly for children and older people with heart or lung disease. Topography, wind speed, weather conditions, and the amount of fuel consumed are some of the factors that influence smoke production and dispersal. Accurate, timely forecasts of smoke dispersal allow public health officials to notify communities at risk. Understanding smoke dynamics is also important when planning a prescribed burn so the treatment can be carried out with minimal impact to air quality.

Ongoing research by scientists with the Pacific Northwest Research Station continues to improve models used to forecast smoke and fire behavior.

Research Examples:


Field crew collect smoke samples in Alaska.
Field crew collect smoke samples in Alaska.



BlueSky connects models of fire information, fuel loading, fire consumption, fire emissions, and smoke dispersion. It links many different models together, making them easy to run in combination. BlueSky can be used to look up fuel information, calculate total and hourly fire consumption based on fuel loadings and weather information, calculate emissions (such as CO2 or PM2.5) from a fire, calculate vertical plume profiles produced by a fire, calculate likely trajectories of smoke parcels given off by a fire, and calculate downstream smoke concentrations.


Fire Emission Production Simulator (FEPS)

Fire Emission Production Simulator (FEPS) is a user-friendly computer program designed for scientists and resource managers with some working knowledge of Microsoft Windows applications. The software manages data concerning consumption, emissions, and heat release characteristics of prescribed burns and wildland fires.


Hand-Piled Fuels Biomass Calculator

Hand-Piled Fuels Biomass Calculator calculates emissions from prescribed burns of hand-piled fuel. Fuel managers and air quality regulators can use the calculator to estimate the volume and biomass of hand-piled fuels and the emissions produced when those piled fuels are burned. The estimation equations were developed from field measurements.


The Wildland Fire Air Quality portal site

The Wildland Fire Air Quality portal site centralizes access to a number of air quality tools, making it both easier and faster to obtain information for planned prescribed fires and unplanned wildland fires. The site includes several help features, including a glossary and phone-based technical assistance.
Incident command teams on wildland fires and land managers involved in prescribed fire operations have to know how their fires will affect air quality. Feedback from users indicates that this is a successful effort to help fire managers gain needed information.







US Forest Service - Pacific Northwest Research Station
Last Modified: Monday,14September2015 at15:12:13CDT

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