Skip to Main Content
Smoke exposure at western wildfires.Author(s): Timothy E. Reinhardt; Roger D. Ottmar
Source: Res. Pap. PNW-RP-525. Portland, OR: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station. 72 p
Publication Series: Research Paper (RP)
Station: Pacific Northwest Research Station
Download Publication (3.5 MB)
DescriptionSmoke exposure measurements among firefighters at wildfires in the Western United States between 1992 and 1995 showed that altogether most exposures were not significant, between 3 and 5 percent of the shift-average exposures exceeded occupational exposure limits for carbon monoxide and respiratory irritants. Exposure to benzene and total suspended particulate was not significant, although the data for the latter were limited in scope. The highest short-term exposures to smoke occurred during initial attack of small wildfires, but the shift-average exposures were less during initial attack than those at extended (project) fire assignments because of unexposed time during the shift. Among workers involved in direct attack of actively burning areas and maintaining fireline boundaries, peak exposure situations could be several times greater than recommended occupational exposure limits for short-term exposures. The study found that exposure to acrolein, benzene, formaldehyde, and respirable particulate matter could be predicted from measurements of carbon monoxide. Electrochemical dosimeters for carbon monoxide were the best tool for routinely assessing smoke exposure, so long as quality assurance provisions were included in the monitoring program. Suggested procedures for reducing overexposure to smoke include (1) hazard awareness training, (2) routinely monitoring smoke exposure, (3) evaluating health risks and applicable exposure criteria, (4) improving health surveillance and injury recordkeeping, (5) limiting use of respiratory protection when other mitigation is not feasible, and (6) involving workers, managers, and regulators to develop a smoke exposure management strategy.
- Visit PNW's Publication Request Page to request a hard copy of this publication.
- We recommend that you also print this page and attach it to the printout of the article, to retain the full citation information.
- This article was written and prepared by U.S. Government employees on official time, and is therefore in the public domain.
CitationReinhardt, Timothy E.; Ottmar, Roger D. 2000. Smoke exposure at western wildfires. Res. Pap. PNW-RP-525. Portland, OR: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station. 72 p
KeywordsSmoke exposure, firefighters, occupational health, pollutants, safety, industrial hygiene, smoke hazards
- Smoke exposure among firefighters at prescribed burns in the Pacific Northwest.
- Review of the health effects of wildland fire smoke on wildland firefighters and the public
- Smoke exposure among wildland firefighters: a review and discussion of current literature.
XML: View XML