Perceptions of wildland fire smoke: literature review and synthesis
Document Type: FEIS Review / Summary / Synthesis
Author(s): Autumn Ellison; Heidi R. Huber-Stearns; Stacey Sargent Frederick; Michael R. Coughlan; Sarah M. McCaffrey; Christine S. Olsen
Publication Year: 2021

Cataloging Information

  • literature review
  • managed fire
  • manager perceptions
  • NWFSC - Northwest Fire Science Consortium
  • public health
  • public perceptions
  • public tolerance of smoke
  • wildfire
Record Maintained By:
Record Last Modified: February 11, 2021
FRAMES Record Number: 62730


Smoke from wildland fire presents a serious and growing concern. Mirroring global trends in recent decades, many areas of the US are experiencing increasing wildfire size, severity, and frequency. The health hazard of smoke from wildland fire has been well-documented (see Adetona et al. 2016 and Reid et al. 2016 for reviews on health impacts) and can be orders of magnitude higher than the hazard presented by actual flames (Doer and Santin 2016, Navarro et al. 2018). As the size and severity of wildfires have increased, smoke has at times affected cities hundreds of miles from the source (Brey et al. 2018).

Amid increasing smoke exposure from wildfires, calls for fuels reduction treatments have also increased. However, treatments such as prescribed fire and natural ignitions that are managed for resource benefits also produce smoke and elicit sim-ilar health concerns as wildfire smoke (Haikerwal et al. 2015). These treatments can reduce overall smoke exposure by decreasing the risk of more severe, hard to control wildfires in the long-term (Long et al. 2017, Schweizer et al. 2018), but their implementation often depends on public support, as well as public tolerance for the smoke they produce.

With exposure to wildland fire smoke projected to further increase (Barbero et al. 2015) there is a clear need for efforts to better mitigate or adapt to smoke impacts in high-risk areas. Such efforts rely on an understanding of how people perceive, plan for, and respond to smoke. This synthesis compiles published scholarly literature on how individuals perceive wildland fire smoke to offer an overview of current knowledge on wildland fire smoke per-ceptions. It is intended to serve as a documenta-tion of the scope, parameters, and gaps of research to date in this field. In addition, it is a resource for:

  • scholars seeking to add relevant insights to col-lective understanding of wildland smoke per-ceptions, ideally as a basis from which to de-velop further inquiries into this field;
  • managers to inform their approaches around smoke or become more familiar with potential areas of concern or opportunities for education.
Online Link(s):
Link to this document (7.8 MB; url)
Ellison, Autumn; Huber-Stearns, Heidi; Sargent Frederick, Stacey; Coughlan, Michael R.; McCaffrey, Sarah; Olsen, Christine S. 2021. Perceptions of wildland fire smoke: literature review and synthesis. Northwest Fire Science Consortium. 25 p.