Fine Particulate Matter and Wildland Fire Smoke: Integrating Air Quality, Fire Management, and Policy in the California Sierra Nevada
Wildland fire is an important component to ecological health in the Sierra Nevada. It is essential to understand smoke impacts from full suppression policy that has produced a smoke averse public if this natural process is restored to the landscape. Smoke is easily visible and has air quality impacts easy to assess with fine particulate matter (PM2.5) monitoring. Little research has been done to understand the benefits of managing ecologically beneficial wildland fire smoke. This dissertation looks at particulate matter in the Sierra Nevada in the context of fire management through prescribed, managed, and full suppression. Mobile particulate monitors, widely used as temporary smoke monitors throughout California, are assessed for their validity in comparative analysis with federal compliance monitors. The 2011 Lion Fire, a managed fire on federal wilderness, is used as a case study for smoke impacts. Fine particulate matter data from urban areas of the Central Valley to rural communities near the fire are analyzed for human health exposure. A permanent fine particulate monitoring site mid-elevation in the Sierra Nevada is used to assess wildland fire smoke impacts across the landscape over time. Implications and improvements to fire and air policy and regulations are discussed to attempt to merge short and long term public health goals.