Public Health Impact of Prescribed Fire (PHIRE)
Principal Investigator: Sumi Hoshiko, MPH
Project Partners: ShihMing Huang, MS; Ana G. Rappold, PhD; Leland Tarnay, PhD; Nancy French, PhD; Andrew Rosenberg, MPH; Ryan Buckman, MPH; Thomas Hayashi, MS; Charlene Sacramento, BA; Jeff Sanchez, BA
Institution: Sequoia Foundation
Project Type: General Research
Grant Award #8GG19803; 8GG20801
Amount awarded: $504,496
Award Date: September 2019
Californians are confronting wildfires that threaten community security, health and safety. Recognizing the value of prescribed fire in mitigating this risk, CAL FIRE and the U.S. Forest Service plan to significantly increase use of this strategy. This raises an important question which this project aims to address: In a future of growing wildfires, how does increased use of prescribed fire impact air quality and public health?
The research will investigate smoke (fine particulate matter, PM2.5) from prescribed fires and wildfires to understand their public health impact, including estimating the potential impact under a future target scenario of increased prescribed fire. Our exposure modeling will use emissions estimates for these burn scenarios in a dispersion model to predict PM2.5 concentrations. The health analysis will investigate impact differences and health burdens for ambient air pollution, smoke from wildfires and prescribed fires, as evidenced in hospital and emergency department visits. Differences by age, gender and other population characteristics will be evaluated. The study will also characterize emissions of greenhouse gases including carbon dioxide and methane from prescribed fires and wildfires.
To build a more wholistic picture of health impacts, the project has conducted community engagement activities in wildland-urban interface areas, including listening sessions in El Dorado and Nevada counties and a survey of medically vulnerable persons in Mariposa County. These activities gathered input directly from local residents about their knowledge, health concerns, and communication needs about prescribed fire, and their recommendations for improving community resilience to wildfire and prescribed fire smoke.
The project is being conducted in an interdisciplinary collaboration of researchers with expertise in air pollution, wildland fire smoke modeling, epidemiology, and forestry, from the California Department of Public Health, Sonoma Technology, Inc., US Environmental Protection Agency, US Forest Service, Michigan Technological University, and the Sequoia Foundation.
A presentation on the smoke dispersion modeling completed for this project can be viewed here: https://youtu.be/1IVABtIuYwI.
A report on community listening sessions performed for this project in 2020 can be found here:
The listening sessions involved residents in the Sierra Nevada foothills to gauge community knowledge, attitudes, perceptions of the public health impacts of prescribed fire, and messaging preferences.
For more information on this project please visit:
Sumi Hoshiko, MPH (PI): email@example.com
CAL FIRE Forest Health Research Program