Some chemical and physical characteristics of emissions from forest fires
Document Type: Whole Book
Author(s): C. K. McMahon ; P. W. Ryan
Publication Year: 1976

Cataloging Information

  • air quality
  • backing fires
  • carbon dioxide
  • chemical elements
  • CO - carbon monoxide
  • combustion
  • evapotranspiration
  • fire intensity
  • fire management
  • flammability
  • Florida
  • fuel management
  • fuel moisture
  • fuel types
  • gases
  • Georgia
  • hardwood forests
  • headfires
  • hydrocarbons
  • ignition
  • Ilex glabra
  • needles
  • nitrogen
  • organic matter
  • particulates
  • pine forests
  • Pinus elliottii
  • pollution
  • residence time
  • Serenoa repens
  • smoke behavior
  • smoke management
  • water
  • wildfires
Record Maintained By:
Record Last Modified: September 19, 2018
FRAMES Record Number: 39165
Tall Timbers Record Number: 13799
TTRS Location Status: In-file
TTRS Call Number: Fire File DDW
TTRS Abstract Status: Fair use, Okay, Reproduced by permission

This bibliographic record was either created or modified by the Tall Timbers Research Station and Land Conservancy and is provided without charge to promote research and education in Fire Ecology. The E.V. Komarek Fire Ecology Database is the intellectual property of the Tall Timbers Research Station and Land Conservancy.


This paper is directed to those interested in emissions from forest fires as they may impact on air quality. There are several different types of forest fires, each with distinct sets of emission characteristics. Emission factors for combustion products vary widely with fire behavior and fuel conditions. Over 90% of the mass of combustion products from forest fires are CO2 and water vapor. The major impact of forest fires on air quality comes from minor and trace constituents. These are usually categorized under the conglomerate classes--hydrocarbons and particulates. Forest smoke particulate matter has a very high organic character. The benzene soluble organic (BSO) fraction is between 40 an d 75% as compared to ambient air which averages 8%. Included in the BSO fraction is polycyclic organic matter. In a series of laboratory studies, emission factors for benzo(a)pyrene ranged from 274 ng/g to 5454 ng/g in backing fires and 38 ng/g to 97 ng/g for heading fires. Actual amounts formed depend on fire conditions and the residence time of combustible gases in the combustion zone. Average physical size of particulate matter in forest ire smoke is approximately 0.1 micron. Between 90 and 95% of the mass of all particultes is below 1 micron.

McMahon, C. K., and P. W. Ryan. 1976. Some chemical and physical characteristics of emissions from forest fires. Portland, OR, Air Pollution Control Association.