Public Perceptions and Tolerance of Smoke from Wildland Fires


Smoke production from fires is a serious land management consideration because it can affect public and firefighter health, impair visibility for road and air traffic, damage property, become a "nuisance," and contribute to air pollution in populated areas that are regulated by EPA air quality standards. However, a very limited amount of research has been conducted specific to public perceptions and tolerance of smoke from wildland fires. Recently the fire management community has called for research to improve the scientific understanding of what factors influence public tolerance of smoke from wildland fires, how people value their personal health and the health of their surrounding ecosystems, especially in circumstances where fire, climate change and increasing populations are interconnecting. This page is dedicated to providing information about current Joint Fire Science Program research specific to public perceptions and tolerance of smoke from wildland fires.

Current Literature and Updates

-Public Perceptions and Tolerance of Smoke From Wildland Fire - Draft Chapter for the Second Edition of the Smoke Management Guide for Prescribed and Wildland Fire. 2013. Authors: Jarod Blades, Troy Hall, Sarah McCaffrey. (PDF)

-Traversing Through the Haze, Exploring the Human Perspective of Smoke From Fire. Northwest Fire Science Consortium Research Brief 1. Spring 2013. Authors: Stacey Sargent Frederick, Dr. Christine Olsen, and Dr. Eric Toman. (PDF)

-Eight Questions Answered: Social Science and Wildfire. In Press. McCaffrey, S., and Olsen, C. (PDF) Readers of this work are urged to consult the full reference by the same authors: Research Perspectives on the Public and Fire Management: A Synthesis of Current Social Science on Eight Essential Questions. (PDF)

-Best practices in risk and crisis communication: Implications for natural hazards management. 2013. Article in Natural Hazards, 65(1) pgs 683-705. Authors: Steelman, T., and McCaffrey, S. (PDF)

-Public perceptions and tolerance of smoke from prescribed and wildland fire. Working literature synthesis.2011. A working document which synthesizes recent research on smoke perceptions and tolerance. Authors: Blades, J., and Hall, T. (PDF).

Communicating Impacts

Photographic Guides for Communicating Smoke Impacts - A series of modeled visibility impacts at differing particulate matter concentrations and relative humidity.


Webinars & Videos

Smoke Perception Modules

(Above) Smoke Perceptions Module 1, available on YouTube. This is one of a four part series which addresses public beliefs and tolerance of smoke, individual and community characteristics, and public trust and advanced warnings. These training resources are offered by researchers at the University of Idaho as part of an effort to enhance understanding and communications between fire practitioners and the public.

Smoke Perceptions Module 1 - Why Public Perception Matters

Smoke Perceptions Module 2 - Values, Beliefs, Attitudes, and Tolerance

Smoke Perceptions Module 3 - Individual and Community Characteristics

Smoke Perceptions Module 4 - Public Trust and Advanced Warning

Public Perceptions of Smoke in Oregon and California

Presenters: Dr. Christine Olsen, Dr. Eric Toman, Stacey Frederick, and Kathleen Rose.

Description: Researchers describe ongoing research in Oregon and California on public perceptions of wild and prescribed fire smoke. They focus on identifying factors that influence perceptions of smoke, and how communication in various forms may influence those perceptions.

Wildland Fire Smoke Messaging and Perception


Presenters: Sarah McCaffrey, USDA Forest Service; Laura McCarthy, The Nature Conservancy; Troy Hall, University of Idaho; and Christine Olsen, Oregon State University.

Description: In 2011 the NWCG Smoke Committee (SmoC) hosted a webinar in collaboration with the NWCG Communication, Education, and Prevention Committee, USFS Smoke FARM Team, and NIFC External Affairs. Four presentations and a discussion period examined public perception and messaging about smoke and wildland fire. The webinar was a key initial step in developing needed messaging about wildland fire smoke, and it also served as the Smoke Committee's beginning effort at developing a broad-scale interagency communication plan on the topic. Download a summary about the presentations (PDF).

Related files:
Introduction (8.2 MB mp3 audio file)
Discussion (59 MB mp3 audio file)

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