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Alice Gilliland, Tim Watkins
Year Published:

Cataloging Information

Human Factors of Firefighter Safety
Wildland Firefighter Health

NRFSN number: 24821
Record updated:

As the wildland–urban interface continues to expand into fire prone areas, future wildfires will likely result in the burning of more built structures, such as the recent Marshall Fire in Colorado, which increases the complexity of the wildfire smoke mixture. Looking to the future, public health practitioners will benefit from a better understanding of how smoke emissions and corresponding health risks from these types of fires vary compared to fires that are purely biomass based.
Another important unknown is the health consequences of repeated short- and long-term smoke exposure, which is becoming more common as wildfire severity and frequency increase in some areas of the U.S. As the need for prescribed fires increases, more research on prescribed fire smoke emissions (considering meteorology, biomass fuels, and burning rates) and development of risk management and communication strategies will also be needed. Toward this end, ORD recently assessed two case study fires in the Western U.S. to compare prescribed fire and wildfire emissions and public health impacts (U.S. EPA, 2021e). U.S. EPA research will continue to develop insights, methods, and tools to support environmental health practitioners as they serve their communities and adapt to a more fire prone environment.


Gilliland, Alice, PhD and Watkins, Tim.  2022. Wildfire Smoke and Public Health: Science and Technology Development to Reduce Risk. Journal of Environmental Health Vol. 84, Iss. 9, (May 2022): 38-41.

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