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Smoke Management

Smoke management is an important consideration for those using prescribed fire. Properly managing smoke from prescribed fires serves many purposes, including protecting the health and safety of surrounding communities and shielding prescribed burners from liability. Smoke management by prescribed burners and coordination between agencies involved in prescribed fire and air quality also helps to preserve the use of prescribed fire as a land management tool in the South. 

Smoke Management Resources for Burners

Some of the resources on this page were developed for the National Wildfire Coordinating Group (NWCG) and people who conduct burning under these guidelines (which includes federal agencies, some state agencies and NGOs), however many of the recommendations are also applicable to non-NWCG burners.

  • The Smoke Management Guidebook for Prescribed Burning in the Southern Region is a guidebook to help southeastern U.S. landowners understand elements of and techniques for smoke management for prescribed burning.
  • Emissions and Smoke Portal website brings together information, documents, websites, and training materials on smoke management and air quality. The main topic areas include education, management, regulation, research, and information on the NWCG Smoke Committee.
  • Prescribed Fire Smoke Management Pocket Guide is a web mobile app that provides guidelines for smoke management, a fuel calculator, definitions of terms related to smoke management, and fact sheets and resources about smoke management.
  • NWCG Smoke Management Guide for Prescribed Fire The NWCG Smoke Management Guide for Prescribed Fire contains information on prescribed fire smoke management techniques, air quality regulations, smoke monitoring, modeling, communication, public perception of prescribed fire and smoke, climate change, practical meteorological approaches and smoke tools. The Guide includes practical tools as well as explanations of the underlying science. Many chapters are helpful for addressing air quality impacts from wildfires.
  • Smoke, Roads, and Safety is a 30-minute video developed by the NWCG on best practices for predicting and managing smoke over roadways. 
  • Southern Fire Exchange fact sheets cover a variety of topics related to smoke management, air quality, and weather including basic smoke management practices, weather and smoke prediction and planning tools, and superfog. Southern Fire Exchange also provides archived webinars on many topics related to smoke management, air quality, and weather.

State Smoke Management Guidelines

Many states have smoke management guidelines for prescribed burners. In some states, these guidelines must be followed for prescribed burners to be protected from liability under laws supporting the use prescribed fire. Even if your state does not provide online resources linked here, contact the agency that handles prescribed burning to be sure you know what smoke management guidelines you need to follow. That agency is linked below for states that do not have smoke management guidelines.

Air Quality Resources

These resources provide a range of basic and technical information about air quality. Your state air quality agency may be able to provide additional, localized information.

  • AIRNow is a service of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that allows you to see the Air Quality Index (AQI) in your area of interest. AIRNow is also available on social media, email alerts, and a mobile phone app. This 2 minute video from the Ashland Chamber of Commerce Business Education Series, Smokey Skies and Your Health: The Air Quality Index, provides a overview of the AQI.
  • EJSCREEN is an environmental justice screening and mapping tool created by the EPA. EJSCREEN allows users to access high-resolution environmental and demographic information, including PM2.5, for locations in the United States, and compare their selected locations to the rest of the state, EPA region, or the nation.
  • Smoke Management and Air Quality for Land Managers Online Tutorial is a free, self-paced tutorial that covers the impacts of smoke, air quality regulations, smoke management techniques, and communication and collaboration in the context of air quality and smoke management.
  • The Report to Congress on Black Carbon (2012) addresses sources, impacts, mitigation strategies and other issues surrounding PM2.5 emissions, including wildfires and prescribed burning.
  • The EPA strengthened Particulate Matter National Ambient Air Quality Standards in 2012, and provides fact sheets and other documents describing that action. Details are available in an EPA fact sheet 
  • Does your area meet National Air Quality standards?

Smoke & Health Information

Be aware that much of the information and research on the health effects of smoke, particularly resources for the public, is based on smoke from wildfires. Recent research has found that different methods used to measure smoke exposure from wildfires and prescribed fires make it difficult to compare the two. There is a need for additional research in this area.

Weather Tools

The tools below are just some of those available that can be used to monitor a range of weather conditions.

Smoke Tools

As  with weather tools, the tools below are just some of those available that can be used to plan smoke management.


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