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Strategies to reduce wildfire smoke in frequently impacted communities in south-western Oregon

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Fuel treatments can substantially reduce smoke emission from subsequent wildfires and if located in consideration of meteorological patterns, these fuel treatments can reduce ambient concentrations of PM2.5.

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FireEarth: Understanding what makes people vulnerable to wildfire

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This StoryMap is an overview of some of the work undertaken by FireEarth scientists, serving as an introduction to the project. FireEarth is not a standalone endeavor, as the work draws on past and concurrent efforts in the field of wildfire science, which are referenced when applicable.

The StoryMap is organized around 13 main sections: 1) About the FireEarth StoryMap, 2) An Introduction to Wildfire, 3) FireEarth’s Goal, 4) Cascading Consequences of Fire, 5) Erosion and Runoff, 6) Cascading Consequence: Fire Intensity Impacts, 7) Regional Hydro-Ecologic Simulation System (RHESSys), 8) Smoke and Air Pollution, 9) Reducing Our Vulnerabilities to Wildfire, 10) Community Adaptation to Fire, 11) Biomimicry: Copying Nature to Coexist with Fire, 12) Conclusion, and 13) All FireEarth-Supported Papers.

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Comparing smoke emissions and impacts under alternative forest management regimes

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Our results suggest that emissions from wildfires will substantially increase in future decades; however, increased levels of forest thinning could substantially reduce those emissions and harmful health impacts from large wildfires. We also found that increased use of prescribed burning could reduce the health impacts associated with large wildfires but would also increase the frequency of low levels
of emissions. Furthermore, the modeling results suggested that individual prescribed fires could have substantial health impacts if dispersion conditions are unfavorable. Our results suggest that increased management is likely to yield important benefits given expected increases in wildfire activity associated with climate change. However, there remain many challenges to projecting the effects of alternative
management regimes, especially ones that involve substantial increases in intentional burning.

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Daily smoke cover dampens fire severity in initial burns but not reburns in complex terrain

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Smoke characteristics improved predictions of fire severity in non-reburn areas but not in reburns. Maximum daily smoke cover interacted with elevation, showing a strong dampening effect of high smoke cover on fire severity at low elevations consistent with prior work and a weaker amplifying effect on fire severity at middle elevations with low smoke cover.

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Wildland fire smoke in the US: A scientific assessment

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This open access book synthesizes current information on wildland fire smoke in the United States, providing a scientific foundation for addressing the production of smoke from wildland fires. This will be increasingly critical as smoke exposure and degraded air quality are expected to increase in extent and severity in a warmer climate. Accurate smoke information is a foundation for helping individuals and communities to effectively mitigate potential smoke impacts from wildfires and prescribed fires. The book documents our current understanding of smoke science for (1) primary physical, chemical, and biological issues related to wildfire and prescribed fire, (2) key social issues, including human health and economic impacts, and (3) current and anticipated management and regulatory issues. Each chapter provides a summary of priorities for future research that provide a roadmap for developing scientific information that can improve smoke and fire management over the next decade.

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Oregon wildfire smoke communications and impacts: An evaluation of the 2020 wildfire season

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Oregon Health Authority and the University of Oregon partnered to conduct a survey-based evaluation of wildfire smoke communications and impacts experienced by Oregon residents during the 2020 wildfire season. The purpose of this survey was to (1) understand how Oregonians respond to wildfire smoke and (2) provide an open-source evaluation tool and data to support wildfire smoke communication practitioners in Oregon.

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Wildfire, smoke exposure, human health, and environmental justice need to be integrated into forest restoration and management

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Increasing wildfire size and severity across the western United States has created an environmental and social crisis that must be approached from a transdisciplinary perspective. Climate change and more than a century of fire exclusion and wildfire suppression have led to contemporary wildfires with more severe environmental impacts and human smoke exposure. Wildfires increase smoke exposure for broad swaths of the US population, though outdoor workers and socially disadvantaged groups with limited adaptive capacity can be disproportionally exposed. Exposure to wildfire smoke is associated with a range of health impacts in children and adults, including exacerbation of existing respiratory diseases such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, worse birth outcomes, and cardiovascular events. Seasonally dry forests in Washington, Oregon, and California can benefit from ecological restoration as a way to adapt forests to climate change and reduce smoke impacts on affected communities.

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Wildfire, smoke exposure, human health, and environmental justice need to be integrated into forest restoration and management

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Increasing wildfire size and severity across the western United States has created an environmental and social crisis that must be approached from a transdisciplinary perspective. This presentation will summarize a recently published article in Current Environmental Health Reports that details how and why scientists, planners, foresters and fire managers, fire safety, air quality, and public health practitioners must collaboratively work together. This article is the result of a series of transdisciplinary conversations to find common ground and subsequently provide a holistic view of how forest and fire management intersect with human health through the impacts of smoke and articulate the need for an integrated approach to both planning and practice.

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Can prescribed fires mitigate health harm?

In this report, we summarize existing research on the air quality and human health impacts of wildfire and prescribed fire. This report is intended to inform policy solutions that support safe and effective prescribed fire, and that reduce the scale of health impacts caused by smoke from catastrophic wildfires. Beyond the scope of this report are other fire management and mitigation strategies (e.g., forest thinning, pile burns, the use of thinned biomass for energy production), and other forms of prescribed fire used for purposes other than fire management (e.g., agricultural burning). Additionally, occupational wildfire-related exposures of firefighters and emergency responders are beyond the scope of this report.

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Smoke ready Oregon: Preparing for wildfire smoke

Webinar recording.

Smoke from wildfires is becoming a reality that individuals and communities face each fire season. Want to learn how you can protect yourself and those you care about from wildfire smoke? In this webinar, we talk about smoke impacts to human health, how to access important air quality information and how to differentiate between the levels of air quality. We also cover things you can do right now to prepare.

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