Public health effects of increased prescribed burns for wildfire management
Principal Investigator: Sumi Hoshiko, MPH
Project Partners: Jeff Sanchez; Deanna Rossi; Charlene Sacramento; ShihMing Huang; Leland Tarnay, Ph.D.; Ana Rappold, Ph.D.; Nancy French, Ph.D.; Jason Vargo, Ph.D.
Institution: Sequoia Foundation
Project Type: General Research
Grant Award #8GG19803; 8GG20801
Amount awarded: $504,496
Award Date: September 2019
Californians are facing a future with more frequent wildfires, which threaten the health and safety of communities across the state. Prescribed fire, which is planned, controlled burning, is an important tool to reduce this risk.
The purpose of this project is to learn: In a future of growing wildfires, how does increased use of prescribed fire impact air quality and public health?
We will study smoke from prescribed fires and wildfires to understand their impact on hospital and emergency department visits. To do this, we will estimate how much smoke (very small particles, or “PM2.5”) would be released from each of these types of fires. We will then see if smoke from these sources is linked to increases in hospital and emergency department visits. The study will also look into whether these health impacts are different for people of different ages, genders, or other characteristics.
In addition to studying PM2.5, we will also estimate how much carbon dioxide and methane, two greenhouse gases, is released from prescribed fires and wildfires.
Finally, to gain a fuller picture of community health impacts, the project is also conducting listening sessions in the Sierra Nevada foothills, in El Dorado and Nevada counties. The listening sessions bring together local residents to learn about their knowledge, health concerns and communication needs about prescribed fire, and to seek recommendations for improving community resilience to wildfire and prescribed fire smoke. We are also starting a survey in Mariposa County to learn about the needs of persons likely to be sensitive to health impacts of smoke.