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Suggested Citation:"How Do We Get There?." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2022. Wildland Fires: Toward Improved Understanding and Forecasting of Air Quality Impacts: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26465.
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How Do We Get There?

The final session of the workshop took a more aspirational view, looking to opportunities as well as available and emerging approaches and tools to improve wildland fire science and communication in the coming years.

Managing California’s Forests for the Future

Mary Nichols, chair of CARB,1 provided an overview of the causes of wildfire in California and how to manage forests to mitigate future risk. The increasing size and severity of fires in California has resulted in millions of people in urban and rural areas being exposed to smoke for extended periods of time. Of the 20 largest wildfires on record since 1932, 17 occurred in the past 20 years, with 5 occurring in 2020 alone, and the fire season was not yet over at the time of this workshop. Acreage burned by wildfires across this state has more than doubled in the past 30 years, with almost 3.5 million acres burned so far in 2020. These observations reflect a feedback loop involving climate change, forest health, and wildfire (Figure 8). Nichols noted that reducing this feedback loop is important to lowering fire risk, promoting community safety, improving water quality and supply, improving air quality and human health, and sequestering carbon.

There is room for optimism, Nichols said. Increased partnerships and relationships are forming among air quality agencies, land managers, and public health officials, and there is greater appreciation of the health impacts of wildfire smoke. There is a shift away from the concept that suppression is the answer for preventing fires and new focus on a more holistic forest management approach, including much more extensive use of prescribed burning. There is also a growing public recognition and acceptance that some smoke from controlled prescribed fire can reduce overall smoke impacts and is preferable to uncontrolled catastrophic wildfires and associated smoke episodes.

Nichols shared that restoring forests to a more healthy state requires much more prescribed burning, along with physical thinning. Over the past year, prescribed fire treatment in California has doubled to roughly 200,000 acres as the state moves toward a goal of treating 1 million acres annually with prescribed fires. This is expected to reduce the likelihood of large fires and promote other aspects of forest health, including carbon sequestration, biodiversity, healthy watersheds, and more stable economies. Nichols explained that there is a need to evaluate existing and new policies, plans, and programs to identify how to incorporate carbon stored in forests. This can maximize the limited funds available to take advantage of synergies that address multiple objectives at the same time. California is now approaching forest management, fire mitigation, air quality, and climate strategies through a holistic lens that spans all sectors of the economy. The recent large fires have expedited efforts toward goals to reach zero emissions for some vehicles in the coming decades to help to mitigate climate change. Recognizing that climate ties sectors together, the California Climate Investments Program was launched in 2014 and is a statewide initiative that pulls billions of cap-and-trade

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1 Mary Nichols’ term as chair of CARB ended in December 2020.

Suggested Citation:"How Do We Get There?." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2022. Wildland Fires: Toward Improved Understanding and Forecasting of Air Quality Impacts: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26465.
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FIGURE 8. Human-driven (anthropogenic) climate change has led to extended droughts and reduced snow pack in California, which has stressed forests. Fire suppression activities over the past century have also led to a buildup of fuels well beyond what would be common in presuppression times. Stressed and unhealthy forests are also more susceptible to disease, and recent bark beetle infestations have left more than 147 million dead and dying trees in California that can act as a fuel source. These conditions make forests more susceptible to catastrophic wildfires, which in turn release greenhouse gases and contribute to further climate change, thereby reinforcing the cycle. SOURCE: Nichols presentation.

dollars from auctioning of allowances to work toward reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Through this mechanism, cap-and-trade dollars are being used by the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection as well as other land managers to conduct prescribed burning and other wildfire risk reduction and forest restoration activities.

Looking ahead, devastating wildfires will continue until forests reach a more healthy condition, Nichols said. It will take years and potentially decades of focused collective action at the state, local, and federal levels to address this challenge. She added that it will require working together to deliver a clear and unified message to the public about the role of prescribed fire in maintaining a healthy, natural landscape. Continued development and improvement to reach the most effective and holistic approaches to mitigating wildfires may be warranted, recognizing the role that land use and other planning decisions play in addressing these risks. Collective efforts aimed at securing resources sufficient to implement identified actions and a firm and confident commitment that fosters and strengthens all kinds of relationships around these topics can make this possible.

Suggested Citation:"How Do We Get There?." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2022. Wildland Fires: Toward Improved Understanding and Forecasting of Air Quality Impacts: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26465.
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Obtaining the Information Needed for the Coming Years

This workshop panel explored opportunities to improve the production and exchange of information about air quality and health effects between atmospheric and health communities and more broadly, with a focus on needs over the next 5 to 10 years and capabilities for research and mitigation of health impacts.

Toward Better Understanding of Smoke Health Impacts from an Epidemiological Perspective

Sheryl Magzamen, Colorado State University, spoke about the health effects of wildland fires and what the future holds from an epidemiological perspective. In her remarks, Magzamen highlighted four key areas that have arisen in her research.

First, studies that evaluate the long-term health effects of chronic, repeated exposure to wildfire smoke within cohorts over time are lacking. This includes both the long-term effects of acute exposures and impacts of chronic, repeated exposures to wildfire smoke. New research suggests that lung function can be impaired a year after smoke exposure (Orr et al., 2020) or make individuals more susceptible to respiratory infections after the fire season, as discussed previously by Henderson. However, most studies to date have been retrospective analyses that looked at acute seasonal or multiseasonal events leveraging secondary health data combined with atmospheric chemistry data to assess exposure and match exposure to health outcomes. Magzamen said that currently wildfires are treated like episodic natural disasters in epidemiological studies but instead should be treated more like a chronic pollutant.

Second, Magzamen noted that research is needed to differentiate the health effects of PM2.5 from different sources. Information about household air pollution and experimental studies show that biomass burning may result in different particle composition and toxicology due to the type of fuel, the burn intensity, and the transport and mixing of those pollutants. Research focused on the long term, as well as “critical windows” where individuals may be more susceptible to negative outcomes (e.g., exposure during pregnancy), is particularly lacking.

Third, there is limited understanding of how communication about wildfire smoke influences behaviors to avoid or mitigate smoke exposure, especially as it relates to vulnerable populations. Magzamen discussed a case study for Colorado which showed that during local fires in 2012 there was a decrease in hospitalizations and emergency department visits associated with asthma. However, in 2015 when the state experienced smoke that was transported from much farther away, increased health care utilization was observed, suggesting possible differences in decisions to avoid or mitigate exposure based on proximity to the fire and associated emergency response.

Finally, Magzamen reinforced the message that there is a need to manage lands in order to reduce health effects from wildland fires. There is currently a lack of integration of information about health impacts in downwind communities during prescribed burns, and improved understanding of both short- and long-term impacts of this type of management is needed, Magzamen said.

Suggested Citation:"How Do We Get There?." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2022. Wildland Fires: Toward Improved Understanding and Forecasting of Air Quality Impacts: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26465.
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Improving Firefighter Protection from Smoke and Other Respirable Particles

Tim Reinhardt, Wood Environment & Infrastructure Solutions, spoke about priority areas to reduce hazards for wildland firefighters. Firefighters are exposed to smoke as well as dust produced when soils are disturbed. CO measured in smoke at the fire line strongly correlates with exposure to other toxic substances, such as formaldehyde, and can therefore provide a good representation of exposure levels if monitored in real time. Reinhardt noted that measurement of PM1, and in particular the organic carbon fraction of PM1, is needed for considering long-term adverse health effects. At the same time, dust can contain respirable crystalline silica which has low exposure limits in the occupational setting, and these limits are routinely exceeded without respiratory protection when firefighting. The permissible exposure limit for respirable dust enforced by OSHA and state agencies has been applied in the context of wildland fire smoke. Given what is known about the toxicity and carcinogenic potential of smoke, this limit is unacceptable, Reinhardt explained. More research is needed to better understand acceptable exposure limits to various toxins (e.g., cellulose, respirable crystalline silica, hexavalent chromium, beryllium) in this occupational setting, and, in the meantime, new lower limits should be established as steps are taken to introduce various controls, Reinhardt said.

There are controls that have been put in place for both engineering (e.g., enclosed-cab dozers) and administrative (e.g., prescribed burn planning improvements) aspects of firefighting, but they have not been demonstrated to be effective in mitigating exposure. Looking to the future, increased prescribed burning and a large incentive to control prescribed fires will increase firefighters’ exposure, which heightens the importance of addressing exposure issues. Respirators will probably be the main tool that is used, Reinhardt said, but no respirators are currently approved for use in this context. The National Fire Protection Association arrived at a respirator standard in 2016. The minimum respirator to be worn is a half-face N95 respirator with ultralow breathing resistance; ember resistance; and removal of CO, formaldehyde, acrolein, and other organics and acid gases. Half-face masks do not help eye irritation issues, but they do not fog up in hot conditions. There are also remaining challenges with N95 masks because they are unable to control for silica and other smoke toxins concurrently. A full-face powered air-purifying respirator made to the 2016 standard would be a useful tool, Reinhardt explained. However, these respirators are costly, there are currently no manufacturers, there is not a guaranteed market, and they have the potential to hinder communication and could lead to loss of situational awareness with fatal outcomes.

Factors for Improving Air Quality

Dan Jaffe, University of Washington, discussed four key factors where better understanding is needed to improve air quality and inform both policy and public health questions: O3, unique smoke markers, prescribed versus wildland fire smoke, and indoor air quality. First, it is well known that smoke contributes to O3 production and O3 exceedances in urban areas, but as discussed by other speakers, there is poor understanding of O3 processes, such as changes caused by individual smoke plumes mixing with urban air and plume movement downwind that causes O3 exceedances far from the source. Smoke can sometimes travel thousands of miles from the source and may remain aloft or move downward to reach

Suggested Citation:"How Do We Get There?." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2022. Wildland Fires: Toward Improved Understanding and Forecasting of Air Quality Impacts: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26465.
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the surface. Whether the smoke reaches the surface becomes an important policy and health question because it is the surface smoke that most directly affects the air people breathe. Regulatory monitoring sites that measure PM cannot distinguish between smoke and other PM sources without unique smoke markers. Better tools for routine monitoring to identify and analyze smoke, especially at low to moderate concentrations, are needed, Jaffe said.

Like other workshop speakers, Jaffe noted that PM emitted from prescribed fires can be dramatically less than that of wildland fires when comparably sized areas have burned. For example, comparing wildland fires in California to prescribed fires in Texas in 2017, Jaffe et al. (2020) found almost an order of magnitude greater quantity of PM2.5 emissions from the wildland fires than from the prescribed burns during the peak month of fire (Table 1). Jaffe remarked that the amount of biomass consumed per acre by wildland fires is greater and contributes to this observation. However, the similarly large difference between values for the highest measured daily PM2.5 quantity during the peak month reflects large differences being captured at the surface across monitoring sites within each state. This suggests that smoke exposure may have been lower in Texas in 2017 and demonstrates that prescribed burns are an important tool for managing smoke and associated air quality.

Last, Jaffe explained impacts of smoke on indoor air quality and ways to mitigate smoke in homes. During recent smoke events, common guidance has been to stay indoors with the windows closed. However, there is very little information available about changes to the indoor environment during smoke events on which to base this guidance. There is a little evidence to indicate that indoor concentrations of fine PM can be nearly as high as outdoors, and Jaffe suggested that a comprehensive overview is needed that considers PM size distribution, O3, CO2, and other pollutants. To address indoor air quality concerns, there are relatively simple and low-cost tools to reduce exposure. For instance, anecdotal evidence suggests that using a low-cost box fan and MERV-13 filter combination can keep a home to a PM concentration that is about 20% of that experienced outdoors, while homes without any type of ventilation system reached concentrations at or near that of the outdoor air.

Using Models to Estimate Smoke Exposure

Yang Liu, Emory University, discussed exposure modeling used to support health effects research. Traditionally, air quality is measured from ground monitors, located largely in cities that are part of the regulatory monitoring network. Because wildland fires often are located far from city centers and it is known that smoke chemistry and dispersion change during smoke transport, there is a disconnect between the data that are available and the data that are needed. Chemical transport models are an important tool in studying health effects but often cannot estimate spatiotemporal smoke patterns because of imperfect emission estimates, complex terrain, coarse resolution, and limited knowledge of the chemistry.

Liu and colleagues have compared and incorporated information from chemical transport models with ground-based and satellite observations to improve estimates of daily PM2.5 concentrations (Geng et al., 2018). Running the Community Multiscale Air Quality (CMAQ) Modeling System with full coverage in space and time at a 12-km resolution yielded a poor correlation between modeled values and ground observations. However, when satellite data and a Bayesian statistical modeling framework were incorporated, the relationship

Suggested Citation:"How Do We Get There?." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2022. Wildland Fires: Toward Improved Understanding and Forecasting of Air Quality Impacts: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26465.
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TABLE 1. Area Burned and Associated PM2.5 Emitted from Wildland Fires in California and Prescribed Fires in Texas in 2017

State 2017 Area Burned (ha) Peak Month Peak Month-Area Burned (ha) Peak Month-PM2.5 Emitted (tons) Highest Daily PM2.5 in That Month (μg/m3)
Wildfires:
California 641,440 October 151,492 106,657 215
Prescribed Fires:
Texas 632,470 February 143, 468 12,807 29

SOURCE: Table and data from Jaffe presentation and EPA National Emission Inventory for 2017. Modified from Jaffe et al., 2020.

improved considerably. Building on obtained results, Liu and colleagues built a spatial calibration model to improve the CMAQ correlation and a Bayesian ensemble model, to combine the calibrated CMAQ and satellite-estimated PM2.5 data. They were able to produce a 1-km-resolution product showing daily PM2.5 concentrations that tracks high-PM regions quite well, Liu said, but there is room for continued improvement in model performance. A remaining challenge with utilizing satellite data for these analyses is that they are only available for about 50% of the time, when it is not cloudy.

Models can also be used to evaluate the role of the smoke source in health outcomes. Running CMAQ with and without smoke emissions in combination with satellite data on total PM2.5 can help to isolate smoke PM2.5 from other sources, but this is very computationally expensive. Modeling research by Liu and colleagues suggests that looking just at ambient measurements of PM2.5 could lead to misclassification of the source of PM2.5 exposure depending on where individuals are located. Being able to isolate the source can affect health outcomes, as one study showed increased asthma risks in children and adults when wildfire smoke concentrations were higher (Stowell et al., 2019). Liu presented one possible interpretation: Fire smoke may be more toxic than ambient PM2.5.

Supplemental data to improve modeling efforts can come from crowdsourced, low-cost sensors. Liu found that in California, PurpleAir sensors provide 10 times the hourly PM2.5 concentration measurements of the EPA network, although uncoordinated locations means that individual sensors are not as spatially representative as those in the EPA network (for which sites are carefully selected). PurpleAir sensor calibration is also needed to address systemic biases, Liu noted. A machine learning model trained with EPA monitoring data and weighted sensor data showed higher annual average PM concentrations throughout most of California than the EPA data alone, suggesting an underestimate of regional population exposure when using only EPA measurements. Particularly high PM concentrations occurred in “hot spots” that corresponded to large wildland fires (Figure 9). The synergistic application of new and emerging technologies and tools with chemical transport models would greatly benefit air quality management and fire smoke health effects research, Liu stated.

Suggested Citation:"How Do We Get There?." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2022. Wildland Fires: Toward Improved Understanding and Forecasting of Air Quality Impacts: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26465.
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FIGURE 9. Modeled estimates of annual average PM concentrations in California including data from EPA monitoring sites only (top left), weighted values including additional available sensor data (bottom left), and data sources combined (right). Particularly high PM concentrations occurred in “hot spots” that corresponded to large wildland fires (labeled with blue arrows on right panel). SOURCE: Bi et al. (2020), in Liu presentation.

Improving Understanding through More Data and Preparation

Speakers discussed the need for expanded data collections and long-term data sets that allow for the study of effects across multiple fire seasons. When it comes to data collection and data assimilation systems, there is value in expanding the availability of collected data and assimilating data records where possible to increase use in long-term studies and for utilization in modeling. The importance of broader monitoring networks that can be used to validate satellite and modeling information was also emphasized. Expanding the number of air pollutants routinely monitored beyond O3 and PM over larger networks could also provide new insights into attribution of sources and understanding of exceedances.

Looking to the future, several speakers stressed the need to prepare—the wildland fire problem is not going away. Preparing communities and health agencies with the right information and tools is one key mechanism to reduce exposure and build resiliency. Preparation includes improved communications both for response to acute fire events when conditions may be very smoky as well as to increase awareness of poor air quality farther downwind where populations may not realize they are being exposed. New standards that address occupational exposure may also be useful to protect those working outdoors and on the front lines.

Suggested Citation:"How Do We Get There?." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2022. Wildland Fires: Toward Improved Understanding and Forecasting of Air Quality Impacts: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26465.
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Improving Information Exchange for the Future

The final panel of the workshop addressed how to improve the ways wildland fire and health effects information is communicated to public audiences.

Partnerships to Advance Communications of Fire Risk

Pete Lahm, USFS, explained efforts to improve information exchange to reduce risks from fire and smoke undertaken by the Interagency Wildland Fire Air Quality Response Program (IWFAQRP) and other partnerships. The IWFAQRP works to improve daily communications about changes in fires and risks around smoke to try to modify human behaviors that lead to reduced smoke exposure. These efforts are coordinated among various federal, state, and local agencies, tribes, and other groups. This coordination involves utilization of monitoring data, smoke dispersion modeling, satellite products, and web tools, and integrates information from incident management teams on the ground supporting wildfire response. Air resource advisors plan the communication efforts and work as part of the IWFAQRP but are deployed with the incident management teams. These advisors consider all available information to determine what needs to be shared with the public. It is a difficult job to translate fire information into anticipated smoke exposure in a downwind community, Lahm said. Examples of immediate information needs could be determining what will burn tomorrow and what will burn 3 days from now, or identifying a canyon region where fire is likely to start or expand rapidly soon. Lahm emphasized the importance of partnership in the IWFAQRP efforts, noting that the only way to continue to improve information exchange is going to be to operate as partners and ensure that all the right agencies participate. In 2019, the IWFAQRP was recognized in congressional legislation as an important component in addressing risks of wildland fires, and the program continues to improve as more lessons are learned each fire season. Another recent partnership Lahm explained is a pilot study between EPA and USFS to pull together low-cost air quality sensor data to augment the permanent PM2.5 monitoring data network.

An advantage of IWFAQRP is that it works as both an operational and research framework in that it allows for real-time data evaluation as part of the toolboxes provided to air resource advisors. Lahm showed how the AQI changed across the state of Oregon between mid-August and mid-September 2020 (Figure 10). The gray shading across the top of the graphic reflects the fraction of the population that does not live within 50 km of a permanent monitoring site. Low-cost sensors would make it possible to fill in this gap.

Suggested Citation:"How Do We Get There?." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2022. Wildland Fires: Toward Improved Understanding and Forecasting of Air Quality Impacts: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26465.
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FIGURE 10. Air Quality Index estimates across the state of Oregon for mid-August to mid-September 2020. SOURCE: Lahm presentation.

Lahm stated that protecting the public comes down to awareness and being “smoke ready.” Identifying those at risk and ensuring they are prepared to address high smoke conditions involves some key steps:

  • determining whether those at risk know they are and, if not, determining how to inform them;
  • identifying what information is missing from current information streams;
  • considering whether there is a system for smoke preparation; and
  • developing a prescription for preparation (i.e., understanding smoke potential from fires, impacts at various scales from local to global, and the possible role of medical insurance in prescribing solutions like air filtration devices).

Communicating with At-Risk Populations

Susan Stone, EPA, discussed steps being taken to improve information exchange with at-risk populations, particularly children, older adults, and those with heart and lung disease. She said that a key way to reach at-risk populations is through health care providers because people are more likely to act when instructed to by their provider. However, research has shown that providers often do not discuss air quality and how it may interact with other conditions (e.g., Mirabelli et al., 2018; Wen et al., 2009). In an effort to fill this void, EPA and CDC have developed a continuing education course based on information in the Wildfire Smoke Guide for Public Health Officials report (2019) and associated fact sheets, produced collaboratively by six federal and state agencies. Other organizations are also developing educational materials and resources to help enable those within the medical community.

A potential avenue for getting information about wildland fire risks to vulnerable individuals is through health insurance companies and the electronic medical records system, Stone said. General messaging about preparedness, health effects of smoke, the AQI, and how

Suggested Citation:"How Do We Get There?." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2022. Wildland Fires: Toward Improved Understanding and Forecasting of Air Quality Impacts: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26465.
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to reduce exposure and symptoms of concern could be relatively straightforward. Although more challenging, it may also be possible to build on this to develop a smoke action plan template that could be completed by individuals and their providers to create plans that meet individual patient risks and needs. A benefit of this approach would be the ability to evaluate the effectiveness of the plan annually in terms of its ability to reduce smoke exposure and to deal with consequences if one is exposed, and to then update the plan as needed.

Many of the questions EPA receives relate to minimizing smoke exposure for schools, daycares, and camps. At the time of this workshop, expert workgroups were in the process of developing recommendations and planning a 2021 workshop to address these concerns. Key areas being explored include respirator use in children, improvement of indoor air quality in schools, school activity guidelines, and the use of indoor and outdoor air quality sensors. From a practical standpoint, daily air quality forecasts provided to schools in late afternoon and early morning may be most useful, much like information is shared for snow days, so that parents can keep children home rather than having to pick them up early. Daily smoke forecasts are currently generated in the 7:30-8:00 am timeframe, which is too late for schools to make informed decisions for that day. More fine-scale, hourly forecasts could inform decisions about outdoor activities and how indoor spaces may be used by schools or childcare facilities.

Building on Existing Tools

Michael Brauer, University of British Columbia, provided insights on how to enhance information exchange by building on the forecasting and communication tools that are currently available. He noted that forecasts have been able to predict health outcomes for the past decade, but could be made more useful if focus was placed more heavily on improving temporal and spatial specificity rather than on improving accuracy in forecast magnitude or complexity (i.e., incorporating additional pollutants). Brauer noted that it is often how the information is communicated that is critical rather than the advancements in the details. For example, adding zoom and animation features to a forecast tool in western Canada was the change needed to get smoke data into nightly weather forecasts. Integrating smoke forecasts into weather forecast tools could also be beneficial from a communications perspective.

Increasing awareness of smoke could be improved by extending forecasts, which is likely feasible. This includes forecasting out 7 to 10 days as well as extending to season length or longer fire hazard information and smoke forecasts. Retrospective analyses could also be used to develop hazard maps that identify areas where smoke has been a problem in recent years. This could help stakeholders to prepare for outdoor events and facilitate the development of smoke contingency plans so that organizers are not rushing to make decisions when smoke occurs. He shared that hazard maps would also be useful for determining cumulative effects of multiple exposures.

For communicating risks, Brauer suggested that improvements are needed in how available information may be perceived versus actual risks to individuals. For instance, if the AQI value for a given area suggests very poor air quality but it is not smoky at that location, individuals may lose confidence in the metric. This particular situation could result from how the AQI is calculated—as a rolling average which does not capture hour-to-hour changes—rather than the air quality at a specific time. Removing the rolling-average AQI or just using

Suggested Citation:"How Do We Get There?." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2022. Wildland Fires: Toward Improved Understanding and Forecasting of Air Quality Impacts: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26465.
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hourly pollutant measurements in the context of a fire might help address this communication concern. Another opportunity to heighten public awareness of poor air quality risks would be for individuals to install low-cost sensors indoors and outdoors. This provides information about the level of protection being offered by going inside, reinforces going indoors as a mitigation action, and could have immediate beneficial health implications (e.g., Yao et al., 2020).

Finally, Brauer emphasized being prepared. This includes having adequate supplies of medications for disease management, which could lessen health impacts of smoke; having extra filters if a filtration system is in use; and planning for what do to if smoke occurs coincident with other hazards, such as extreme heat. Having communication for extreme heat and smoke that is linked in messaging so that it deals with both hazards is important, he said.

Some Strategies for Communicating Science to Nonscientists

Marshall Shepherd, University of Georgia, provided a big-picture overview of what works and what does not when it comes to science communication. For a topic to be picked up by the media he noted that it needs to have a “so what” factor, and the presence of wildland fires, smoke, and implications for society very much meet this criterion.

Shepherd shared nine tips for communicating science to nonscientists (Shepherd, 2016):

  1. Know your audience and tailor the message for that audience; one size does not fit all.
  2. Be careful not to use jargon. Terms like “bias” and “positive trends” have very different meanings for scientists than for the public or policy makers.
  3. Get to the point and deliver the bottom line first. This contrasts with typical research communications where the background is provided first and bottom line last (Figure 11).
  4. Use analogies and metaphors.
  5. Make three points. Having three takeaways from messages has been shown to be effective. Also consider the “three m’s”: memorable, meaningful, and miniature.
  6. Be confident and clear in sharing what you know. You are the expert.
  7. Use social media to reach intended audiences. The social media landscape now has many more looking to the internet for their information.
  8. Let go of the myth that scientists who choose to use social media are “popularizers.” Social media is an important tool for engaging with public audiences.
  9. Relate. When communicating about implications of smoke for public health or other fire dangers, find what in the at-risk communities’ value system relates for that particular audience. This will be different for different audiences.

Shepherd also posed a few questions to get at how the atmospheric sciences may be able to better provide input to advancing wildland fire science. These questions related to providing greater clarity in the connections among climate change, smoke, wildland fire, and associated attribution; the role that artificial intelligence and machine learning could play in advancing smoke forecasts; and what is missing from weather-climate models that would meet smoke forecasting needs (e.g., greater resolution, less parameterization, process, connection to decision support systems). Finally, Shepherd explained new impacts-based forecasting within

Suggested Citation:"How Do We Get There?." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2022. Wildland Fires: Toward Improved Understanding and Forecasting of Air Quality Impacts: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26465.
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FIGURE 11. Depiction of the contrasting styles of communication between researchers (left) and the public (right). SOURCE: AAAS Center for Public Engagement with Science and Technology (Adapted from Baron, 2010).

the National Weather Service and asked whether there are significant investments being made in the social sciences aspect of messaging in the wildland fire community that could lead to similar messaging approaches.

Improving the Messaging

Panelists discussed opportunities and challenges that come with the emergence of new tools and communication capabilities. For fire and forecast modeling, many models are now available, but they vary in their strengths and what they can provide, meaning that different models may be best suited to meet different needs. As the number of tools and available data sets increases, lessons are being learned about how to communicate the information in ways that resonate with communities, and how to make sure the strengths and limitations of the data are transparent, to lessen the likelihood of information being misused or misinterpreted. Improved coordination around wildland fire activities and communications of risks, including at the federal level, will likely help to get information on fire and smoke out more broadly to the public through channels like news and weather apps.

Additional communications efforts are needed to ensure that wildland fire information reaches those for whom English is not their first language, panelists said. Having trusted communicators within communities who can translate fire information accurately is useful in reaching those who may be at risk. Several panelists also noted a need to increase understanding of how different communities access information. For instance, not everyone has cell phones or internet and may rely on other means like radio to obtain information.

Looking ahead to advancing communications and actions around wildland fire, panelists suggested that additional expert communities could be included in the types of discussions held

Suggested Citation:"How Do We Get There?." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2022. Wildland Fires: Toward Improved Understanding and Forecasting of Air Quality Impacts: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26465.
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at this workshop. These communities could include social scientists who can hone ways to message effectively for various audiences, as well as engineers who can provide insights into how to address filtration issues to improve indoor air quality. This meeting was a positive step, but speakers noted that there is still much to be done.

Final Thoughts

To close the workshop, planning committee members reflected on some of the messages they heard during the meeting.

A.R. “Ravi” Ravishankara, Colorado State University, said there is no silver bullet to avoid the problem of wildland fires, but instead they are something to learn to live with. It is very likely the wildland fire problem will get worse as a result of climate change and associated regime shifts, as well as further human encroachment into the wildland-urban interface, he said. Although fires may not be controllable, their societal impact can be reduced through individual actions and efforts to protect communities including vulnerable, underprivileged, and underrepresented groups. Practical steps, such as prescribed burning, provide a way to reduce fires, especially catastrophic ones. At the same time, developing a clear set of research priorities to improve understanding of wildland fires, leveraging new and emerging tools and technologies, and expanding attention on indoor air quality and the influence of multiple stressors on human health could help improve knowledge and reduce risks, Ravishankara noted.

Benjamin built on this, suggesting that community-based engagement to communicate about mitigation options could be an important component of building awareness and reducing risks. Luke Naeher, University of Georgia, noted the value in bridging the exposure health and atmospheric science communities and the unlimited collaboration opportunities among those that participated in this workshop. Anenberg also commented on the opportunities the workshop highlighted related to rapidly evolving science and tools and how these can inform health effects studies and communication.

Narasimhan “Sim” Larkin, USFS, commented on the diversity of impacts discussed during the workshop ranging from the unique susceptibilities of different vulnerable populations to occupations that increase exposure because of outdoor work, to how the construction of one’s home can affect indoor air quality. Finding ways to convey information to these different groups in ways that are most valuable will vary; it is not one size fits all, he said.

Warneke noted that workshop presenters explained how extremely difficult and complex the wildland fire problem is, but opportunities to refine understanding of this complexity can come with new data from recent field studies and from new tools that are emerging. At the same time, speakers expressed a desire to have improved air quality forecasts, which will mean trying to simplify what is already known to provide this information. There is also much information already known about smoke that the atmospheric science community could better communicate for use in health effects research and to broader audiences, Warneke said. Wiedinmyer built on this, noting that the specific questions being asked can inform the research approach. For instance, starting from questions that came up repeatedly during the workshop such as “When will smoke arrive?” and “When will it go away?” and using

Suggested Citation:"How Do We Get There?." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2022. Wildland Fires: Toward Improved Understanding and Forecasting of Air Quality Impacts: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26465.
×

those to shape atmospheric chemistry research directions could provide new ways to make advances in protecting public health.

Suggested Citation:"How Do We Get There?." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2022. Wildland Fires: Toward Improved Understanding and Forecasting of Air Quality Impacts: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26465.
×
Page 37
Suggested Citation:"How Do We Get There?." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2022. Wildland Fires: Toward Improved Understanding and Forecasting of Air Quality Impacts: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26465.
×
Page 38
Suggested Citation:"How Do We Get There?." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2022. Wildland Fires: Toward Improved Understanding and Forecasting of Air Quality Impacts: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26465.
×
Page 39
Suggested Citation:"How Do We Get There?." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2022. Wildland Fires: Toward Improved Understanding and Forecasting of Air Quality Impacts: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26465.
×
Page 40
Suggested Citation:"How Do We Get There?." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2022. Wildland Fires: Toward Improved Understanding and Forecasting of Air Quality Impacts: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26465.
×
Page 41
Suggested Citation:"How Do We Get There?." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2022. Wildland Fires: Toward Improved Understanding and Forecasting of Air Quality Impacts: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26465.
×
Page 42
Suggested Citation:"How Do We Get There?." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2022. Wildland Fires: Toward Improved Understanding and Forecasting of Air Quality Impacts: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26465.
×
Page 43
Suggested Citation:"How Do We Get There?." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2022. Wildland Fires: Toward Improved Understanding and Forecasting of Air Quality Impacts: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26465.
×
Page 44
Suggested Citation:"How Do We Get There?." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2022. Wildland Fires: Toward Improved Understanding and Forecasting of Air Quality Impacts: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26465.
×
Page 45
Suggested Citation:"How Do We Get There?." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2022. Wildland Fires: Toward Improved Understanding and Forecasting of Air Quality Impacts: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26465.
×
Page 46
Suggested Citation:"How Do We Get There?." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2022. Wildland Fires: Toward Improved Understanding and Forecasting of Air Quality Impacts: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26465.
×
Page 47
Suggested Citation:"How Do We Get There?." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2022. Wildland Fires: Toward Improved Understanding and Forecasting of Air Quality Impacts: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26465.
×
Page 48
Suggested Citation:"How Do We Get There?." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2022. Wildland Fires: Toward Improved Understanding and Forecasting of Air Quality Impacts: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26465.
×
Page 49
Suggested Citation:"How Do We Get There?." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2022. Wildland Fires: Toward Improved Understanding and Forecasting of Air Quality Impacts: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26465.
×
Page 50
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Wildland fires pose a growing threat to air quality and human health. Fire is a natural part of many landscapes, but the extent of area burned and the severity of fires have been increasing, concurrent with human movement into previously uninhabited fire-prone areas and forest management practices that have increased fuel loads. These changes heighten the risk of exposure to fire itself and emissions (smoke), which can travel thousands of miles and affect millions of people, creating local, regional, and national air quality and health concerns.

To address this growing threat, the National Academies brought together atmospheric chemistry and health research communities, natural resource managers, and decision makers to discuss current knowledge and needs surrounding how wildland fire emissions affect air quality and human health. Participants also explored opportunities to better bridge these communities to advance science and improve the production and exchange of information. This publication summarizes the workshop discussions and themes that emerged throughout the meeting.

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