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    The Atlanta Incident: Management Response and The After Action Review

    An After Action Review (AAR) was conducted on March 15th at the State Forestry Offices in Dry Branch Georgia. The Fish and Wildlife Service, Forest Service, Georgia State Forestry, State Air Protection Branch, EPA and media were all represented in addition to members of the public and the prescribed burning community.

    Atlanta-5.jpgThe atmosphere just prior to the AAR appeared to be rather contentious. However, as the AAR commenced, the Forest Service began not by denying any blame for the incident, but by apologizing for any inconvenience their burn had caused the public. That statement helped to make the participants from the air regulatory community much more willing to work together to describe and solve the problem in a cooperative manner.

    While both prescribed burns were performed in conditions within prescription it was clear that the existing tools for predicting, measuring, modeling and managing prescribed burning at the regional level were insufficient. This is evidenced in the process of issuing burn permits at the time. While both the Piedmont and Oconee received permits from the same office, it is unclear if the office was aware of the concurrent burns. The Georgia Forestry Commission issues burn permits from 130 offices throughout the state in the absence of coordination between the separate offices.

    The AAR resulted in the following recommendations:

    • Establish certified smoke management program for Georgia.
    • Have the Georgia Forestry Commission manage permitting more regionally than locally.
    • Track permits real time for air quality management.
    • Communicate large acreage permits to the media.
    • Support accelerated USDA-Forest Service research for new smoke modeling.
    • Improve meteorology and modeling for regional air quality management of prescribed burning.
    • Assemble more data on the health impacts of such an intrusion on the metro area.
    • Gather data on local Atlanta emissions from fire impacts on such an intrusion.
    • Increase public education regarding prescribed burning especially for audiences in non-attainment areas.

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