International Journal of Wildland Fire International Journal of Wildland Fire Society
Journal of the International Association of Wildland Fire

Just Accepted

This article has been peer reviewed and accepted for publication. It is in production and has not been edited, so may differ from the final published form.

Air quality policy and fire management responses addressing smoke from wildland fires in the United States and Australia

Joshua Hyde , Kara Yedinak , Alan Talhelm , Alistair Smith , David Bowman , Fay Johnston , Peter Lahm , Mark Fitch , Wade Tinkham

Abstract

Wildland fires emit large quantities of particulates, gases, and water vapor. Though episodic, fires can degrade air quality and visibility at large spatial scales, having adverse economic, health, and visibility impacts on surrounding communities and beyond. Greenhouse gases from fires can also significantly impact atmospheric chemistry processes. Air quality regulations can often constrain the goals of sustaining resilient landscapes and the management of fire-dependent ecosystems and requires significant resources from wildland fire managers. We review the air quality regulatory framework in the United States and discuss through a comparison with Australia how these frameworks affect wildland fire management. In the United States, wildland fire management and air quality policies have evolved independently, but now interact in order to meet diverse public needs. In Australia, national policy development is more recent with decisions historically decentralized. Overall, we find that effective smoke regulatory framework and fire management policy must keep pace with scientific evidence, environmental and social change, and be accompanied by clear guidance. The episodic, non-stationary qualities of wildland fire, along with the necessary role of fire in maintaining ecosystem function, pose specific challenges to regulators and policy-makers. Also, the complexity of air quality policies focused on industry often lead to unintended consequences that impact fire management. More research is needed to create and implement more effective fire emissions policies and better prepare systems for the challenges of greenhouse gases and climate change mitigation. Important insights to countries yet to develop complementary wildland fire and air quality policies are provided.

WF16154  Accepted 15 February 2017

© CSIRO 2017