Wildfire and Smoke

As most people know, the Forest Service plays an important role with fire.  This involves both responding to unwanted wildfires and using fire (termed prescribed fire) as a tool reduce unhealthy and unsafe accumulations of vegetation.  Associated with both types of fire is smoke.  While smoke can affect anyone, those most at risk are the young and seniors and those with cardiovascular or respiratory issues. 

Luckily there are many tools available to reduce the risk to the public from smoke.  For the last ten years a specially trained group of professionals known as Air Resource Advisors have responded to major wildfire incidents across the country to address smoke.  Using tools such as sophisticated computer models, portable air quality monitors and multiple methods of communication, ARAs relay the location and severity of impacts to fire managers and the public.  Fire managers use this information as they develop strategies and tactics to fight the fire, especially with regards to aviation resources.  The public uses this information to reduce its risk from smoke exposure

Staff in the eastern region responded to the call to support wildfire response across the country last year, including for smoke in Arizona and Colorado.  Due to COVID more assignments were done virtually across the fire organization and this was the case for the Arizona detail.  Although it is better to be there and lay eyes on the fire, much can be seen using satellites and interaction with other team members can be done over videochat.

The fire season was a long one last year as evidenced by the detail done to the Cameron Peak fire in Colorado that burned in Rocky Mountain National Park and went from late October into early November.  This was the largest wildfire in Colorado history which had already been burning for three months.  A snowfall event helped bring this fire to an end.