Smoke Management

Column of smoke over Yosemite National Park
Smoke over Yosemite National Park


Protecting Health and the Environment

National Park Service units must comply with regulations and standards set by local, state, and national agencies in order to minimize effects of smoke on air resources, the public, and park employees. The success of fire management programs for both wildfires and prescribed fires depends on a solid foundation of clear communication and planning, which promotes understanding of the complexity of wildland fire, shares information, promotes actions to minimize smoke effects to public health and welfare, and allows wildland fires natural role in the ecological process.

The first guiding principle for fire managers is always the safety of firefighters and the public, followed by the role of wildland fire as an essential ecological process. Fire managers also understand that smoke is a concern when conducting prescribed fires, as well as responding to wildfires, due to public health and safety. During the planning and implementation of a prescribed fire, actions to minimize and mitigate public health and safety impacts are incorporated in the prescribed fire plans, and take into account the following six basic smoke management practices:

  • Evaluate smoke dispersion conditions
  • Monitor effects of air quality
  • Keep records including keeping and maintaining a smoke journal
  • Communicate with and notify the public
  • Consider emission reduction techniques
  • Share the airshed or coordination with other burners in the area

Learn more about wildland fire research to protect health and the environment.

Last updated: November 1, 2017