Wildland Fire Air Quality Reponse Program
Recognition of the growing threat that wildfire smoke poses to public health and safety has resulted in a proactive and determined response led by the USDA-Forest Service (USFS) and enhanced through partnership with many other agencies such as the National Park Service. The Wildland Fire Air Quality Response Program (WFAQRP) was created to directly assess, communicate, and address risks posed by wildland fire smoke to the public as well as fire personnel. The program depends on four primary components: specially trained personnel called Air Resource Advisors, air quality monitoring, smoke concentration and dispersion modeling, and coordination and cooperation with agency partners.
Air Resource Advisors
Under the WFAQRP, Air Resource Advisors are technical specialists that are trained to work on smoke issues from wildland fire. They are deployed nationwide during large smoke events. Air Resource Advisors are dispatched to an incident to assist with understanding and predicting smoke impacts on the public and fire personnel. They analyze, summarize, and communicate these impacts to incident teams, air quality regulators, and the public.
The Program has developed a national cache of smoke monitoring equipment that can be deployed to incidents to understand the magnitude of smoke impacts. The monitors were heavily used in western wildfires in 2014 and 2015. Smoke monitors which measure fine particulate matter, PM2.5 are tied into the GOES satellite system similar to Remote Automated Weather Stations (RAWS). The near-real time data is available to the public via the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) AirNow website as well as smoke monitor data display systems developed by the Pacific Northwest Research Station’s AirFire Team to support operational smoke forecasting. Generally, orders for monitors are tied to the overall emergency response to a wildfire and the interagency systems which support incident management teams
ARAs depend on smoke modeling to assess future impacts. These include customized forecasts produced by the US Forest Service AirFire Team with their BlueSky smoke modeling system provides daily smoke impact modeling of active wildfires throughout the lower 48 states. Alaska BlueSky runs were added when wildfire smoke needs developed in 2015. The operational model products of BlueSky, which frequently utilize fine scale meteorological data supplied by U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) for greater resolution and model performance, support active smoke and air quality impact forecasting downwind of large wildfires.
The success of the Wildland Fire Air Quality Response Program depends on contributions from numerous interagency partners. The current pool of trained ARAs includes staff from various federal, state, tribal, and local governments as well as the private sector. The success and online presence of key smoke modeling tools would not be possible without the significant contributions by the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Smoke impact modeling is contributed by the U.S. Forest Service Pacific Northwest Research Station among others.
For more information on the Wildland Fire Air Quality Response Program, please contact: