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Individual Highlight

Forest Service scientists develop strategies to restore fire while protecting air quality

Photo of Fire managers managed the Grouse Fire of 2009 to encourage burning during periods of favorable smoke dispersion, including times at night. Fire managers managed the Grouse Fire of 2009 to encourage burning during periods of favorable smoke dispersion, including times at night. Snapshot : Forest Service scientists demonstrated that by using fire under favorable weather and fuel conditions, large areas of forest can be treated while keeping daily emissions below levels that are likely to cause harm to people in downwind communities.

Principal Investigators(s) :
Long, Jonathan W. 
Research Location : California and Nevada
Research Station : Pacific Southwest Research Station (PSW)
Year : 2017
Highlight ID : 1388

Summary

National forests in the western U.S. are increasingly using large prescribed fires and unplanned wildfires under favorable conditions to increase forest resilience and promote other resource objectives. Such efforts create a challenge for land managers and air regulators to minimize impacts to air quality in downwind communities. A team of Forest Service scientists developed a framework for evaluating smoke impacts and applied it to a case study in the Sierra Nevada. They showed that an extreme wildfire not only impacted millions of people in California and Nevada, but its smoke impact per unit area burned was several times greater than fires used to achieve resource objectives in the same area. At the National Cohesive Wildland Fire Strategy in Reno, the team presented their findings and extended the approach to one of the largest prescribed burns proposed for the Sierra Nevada. Through efforts by their research collaborators, the findings have been presented in a number of policy-influential forums, including the "Little Hoover" Commission on California State Government Organization and Economy. At least one local environmental agency (Washoe County Health District) considered these findings while revising their policies on assessing fees for restorative burning.

Forest Service Partners

External Partners

 
  • USFS Region 5 air program, USFS Region 5 remote sensing program