Baseline measurements of smoke exposure among wildland firefighters
Document Type: Journal Article
Author(s): Timothy E. Reinhardt; Roger D. Ottmar
Publication Year: 2004

Cataloging Information

  • air quality
  • chemical compounds
  • CO - carbon monoxide
  • CO2 - carbon dioxide
  • FERA - Fire and Environmental Research Applications Team
  • fire danger rating
  • fire equipment
  • fire injury
  • fire management
  • fire management planning
  • fire suppression
  • firefighter safety
  • firefighters
  • firefighting personnel
  • hazard
  • health factors
  • mop up
  • particulates
  • pollution
  • season of fire
  • smoke effects
  • smoke management
  • statistical analysis
  • toxicity
  • wildfires
  • wind
Record Maintained By:
Record Last Modified: August 24, 2021
FRAMES Record Number: 4981
Tall Timbers Record Number: 17866
TTRS Location Status: In-file
TTRS Call Number: Fire File
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.


Extensive measurements of smoke exposure among wildland firefighters are summarized, showing that firefighters can be exposed to significant levels of carbon monoxide and respiratory irritants, including formaldehyde, acrolein, and respirable particulate matter. Benzene was also measured and found to be well below permissible exposure limits, with the highest concentrations occurring among firefighters working with engines and torches burning petroleum-based fuel. Exposures to all pollutants were higher among firefighters at prescribed burns than at wildfires, while shift-average smoke exposures were lowest among firefighters who performed initial attack of wildfires in the early stages of the fires. Smoke exposure reaches its highest levels among firefighters maintaining fire within designated firelines and performing direct attack of spot fires that cross firelines. These events and the associated smoke exposures were positively correlated with increasing ambient wind speeds, which hamper fire management and carry the convective plume of the fire into firefighters' breathing zone. The pollutants measured in smoke were reasonably well correlated with each other, enabling estimation of exposure to multiple pollutants in smoke from measurements of a single pollutant such as carbon monoxide.

Online Link(s):
Reinhardt, Timothy E.; Ottmar, Roger D. 2004. Baseline measurements of smoke exposure among wildland firefighters. Journal of Occupational and Environmental Hygiene 1(9):593-606.