The high variablility of burning conditions and fuels, found in Alaskan forest fires, produces an associated complex emission of particulate matter. Histological evidence of some large particles has been found in the forest fire plumes as well as aerosols resulting apparently from gas-to-particle conversion. Particles analyzed with a scanning electron microscope and X-ray energy dispersive techniques show large variability in both physical and chemical characteristics. Optical measurements show forest fire smoke affects atmospheric turbidity regionally. Turbidity values presented which were measured in the plume from a forest fire 400 km from Fairbanks show values in excess of those found for heavily polluted urban regions. The particulate matter analysis showing irregular shapes and highly varied chemical composition displays the difficulty in radiative transfer calculations due to the assumptions of Mie theory. The nature of the aerosol size concentrations (non-Junge power law distributions) fouund in forest fire plumes also violates the assumption necessary for application of Angstrom's classic method of defining the turbidity coefficient and wavelength exponent. Consequences of such particulate matter may affect the temperature structure of the atmosphere, radiation balance as well as visibility. In addition, the burnt over forest regions display a reduction of surface albedo and roughness parameter which will have prolonged influence on the heat exchange at the earth's surface.