Comparative Assessment of the Impacts of Prescribed Fire Versus Wildfire (CAIF): A Case Study in the Western U.S.


Abstract

In January 2020, the Wildland Fire Leadership Council (WFLC) requested that EPA, in collaboration with scientific staff in the U.S. Forest Service (USFS), the Department of the Interior (DOI) and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), conduct an assessment of air quality and health impacts of prescribed fire compared to wildfire. This assessment is described in the final report, Comparative Assessment of the Impacts of Prescribed Fire Versus Wildfire (CAIF): A Case Study in the Western U.S.

The CAIF report is organized as follows:

  • Executive Summary
    • Chapter 1: Introduction
  • Part I: Conceptual Framework, Background, and Context
    • Chapter 2: Conceptual Framework for Evaluating and Comparing Different Fire Management Strategies
    • Chapter 3: Fire Regimes, Fire Effects, and a History of Fuels and Fire Management in the Western U.S.
    • Chapter 4: Air Quality Monitoring of Wildland Fire Smoke
    • Chapter 5: Direct Damages from Wildland Fire
    • Chapter 6: Health and Ecological Effects of Wildland Fire Smoke Exposure
  • Part II: Quantitative Assessment of Smoke Impacts of Wildland Fire in Case Study Areas
    • Chapter 7: Air Quality Modeling of Case Study Fires
    • Chapter 8: Estimated Public Health Impacts of Smoke from Case Study Fires
    • Chapter 9: Integrated Synthesis



Background

The Wildland Fire Leadership Council (WFLC) requested that EPA, in collaboration with scientific staff in the U.S. Forest Service (USFS), the Department of the Interior (DOI) and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), conduct an assessment of air quality and health impacts of prescribed fire compared to wildfire.

Through two case study fires (Timber Crater 6 [TC6] Fire, Oregon; Rough Fire, California), the assessment used emissions data, air quality modeling, and health impact analyses to examine the corresponding air quality and public health impacts due to actual fires and hypothetical fire scenarios based on different fire management strategies, as well as prescribed fire activity.


Impact/Purpose

The purpose of this report is to provide an initial assessment of the differences in emissions, and air quality and public health impacts of smoke between prescribed fire and wildfire that could be informative to multiple levels of government as they engage and plan for future land and fire management activities. Additionally, the CAIF report contributes to the identification of future research efforts to examine air quality and public health impacts due to smoke from fire.

Citation

U.S. EPA. Comparative Assessment of the Impacts of Prescribed Fire Versus Wildfire (CAIF): A Case Study in the Western U.S. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Washington, DC, EPA/600/R-21/197, 2021.

This document has been reviewed in accordance with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency policy and approved for publication. Mention of trade names or commercial products does not constitute endorsement or recommendation for use.