Public Health

Smoke is a product of combustion and is inherent to fire. The effects of smoke are felt by communities, regardless of whether those fires are beneficial to the landscape or not. Those with pre-existing conditions, those who work outdoors, and those who are unhoused are some of the individuals who may be particularly vulnerable to smoke impacts.

Smoke isn’t the only element of public health that matters to communities seeking to better live with wildland fire. Mental health is another critical element of adaptation. Whether communities or individuals have been impacted by smoke, recovering from wildfire, or work in the wildfire field , mental health impacts should be considered.  One question to consider when working to reduce wildfire risk and increase community resilience is “Who do I need to invite to this discussion to ensure that we are considering community mental and physical well-being while living with wildfire?”

Public Health entities are important partners in our wildfire adaptation work. See considerations and resources below.


Social services are a crucial component of community resiliency. How are you reaching your whole community (including those who speak English as a second language, migrant workers and unhoused community members) with information about health, safety and preparedness related to wildland fire? Which of your partners are already engaging with these community members and can you work together to better serve your community?
Public health is an important part of disaster management. From sheltering during a pandemic, to environmental health after a fire (such as soil or water contamination), to communication about water quality impacts and more, public health partners are crucial in this work. Who are the public health partners in your area? Do you have working relationships or can you work to establish them?
Practitioners who work in this field are not invincible to stress or burnout. It is important that the wildland fire and disaster management community recognize, acknowledge, and address the signs of burnout and stress in ourselves and our colleagues. Read more from some colleagues here: https://fireadaptednetwork.org/burnout-and-stress-in-the-practitioner-community/.


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Smoke-Ready Toolbox for Wildfires

Website / Interactive Map
US Environmental Protection Agency
“Smoke from wildfires in the United States is adversely affecting air quality and potentially putting more people at health risk from smoke exposure. … Public health officials and others can use the resources in the Smoke-Ready Toolbox to help educate people about the risks of smoke exposure and actions they can take to protect their health.”... Read More

Smoke Resources from the Fire Adapted Communities Learning Network

Guide / Pamphlet / Handout
Fire Adapted Communities Learning Network
This resource page has three handouts available for download. These resources came out of the Smoke Learning Group series hosted by FAC Net (spring – summer 2021) for FAC Net members, as well as the two-part Prescribed Fire and Community Health webinars co-hosted by FAC Net and the West Region of the Wildland Fire Leadership... Read More

Smoke Readiness for Low Income, Indigenous Communities

Bill Tripp
The October 2020 National Cohesive Wildland Fire Management Strategy Conference featured a presentation on Smoke Readiness for Low Income, Indigenous Communities by Bill Tripp of the Karuk Tribe. Bill’s presentation begins at 1:27.10 and runs until 1:35.47.  Bill highlights the impacts of smoke to human health as well as the benefits of lower levels of smoke as... Read More

Safe Cleanup of Fire Ash

Guide / Pamphlet / Handout
New Mexico Department of Health
This short, two-page handout focuses on clean-up of ash and debris following fire. Read More

Risk Communication Toolkit for Local Health Agencies

Guide / Pamphlet / Handout
New Jersey Department of Health
“Effectively communicating information to the right audience is a vital aspect of crisis communication. This Crisis and Emergency Risk Communication Tool Kit is designed to assist you in properly communicating with your community prior to, during and after a crisis. The kit is designed to provide local health agencies the resources to create their own... Read More

Ready.Gov for Kids

Website / Interactive Map
US Department of Homeland Security
This portion of the Ready.Gov website is focused on kids and families. Sort resources by age and find resources both for kids and the families and organizations which serve them. Spanish language resources available. Read More

Public Health Wildfire Smoke Communication Guide

Guide / Pamphlet / Handout
Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services
This resource for local county health departments provides an introduction to wildfire smoke, communication objectives, key media messages, fact sheets and more. Read More

Protecting Yourself from Wildfire Smoke

Website / Interactive Map
California Air Resources Board
This resource from the California Air Resources Board provides residents with information about the health impacts of wildfire smoke, appropriate mitigation measures, and ways to create a clean air space. While focused on California, resources are largely applicable to a broad geographic area. Read More

Protecting Outdoor Workers Exposed to Smoke from Wildfires

Website / Interactive Map
State of California Department of Industrial Relations
This website contains important information and resources focused on protection of outdoor workers from hazardous air quality as a result of wildland fire smoke exposure. While focused on California requirements, helpful links are provided which are applicable nationwide. Read More

Preparing Together: Ashland, OR

Website / Interactive Map
Ashland Chamber of Commerce and Ashland Fire & Rescue
This website provides clear resources on smoke, evacuation, and risk mitigation for visitors, employees, business owners, and residents. This site is a good example of wildfire communication for visitors in areas with significant out-of-area guests. Read More
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Photo Credit: Canva Creative Commons
Community Profile
Fire Adaptation in the Field
Ashland, Oregon

Partners in Ashland Oregon, including Ashland Fire & Rescue, the Ashland Chamber of Commerce, local health departments, and area medical providers convened to create Smokewise Ashland, a partnership focused on public health and economic resiliency needs related to wildfire. Smokewise Ashland shares information related to indoor and outdoor air quality as well as steps area residents can take to reduce their risks.

Photo Credit: Chris Chambers. Ashland Fire & Rescue staff disassemble an air purifier to understand its components.