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The Chemistry of Fires in the Wildland Urban Interface

Posted: Jan. 26, 2023

Wildland urban interface (WUI) fires fueled by the built environment lead to unique public health effects.

While conventional wildfires are fueled by burning of vegetation, fires in the WUI are fueled by vegetation and fuels from the built environment, such as homes, cars and other human-made structures. The interaction of these 2 types of fires can lead to public health effects that are unique to WUI fires.

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine (NASEM) published a consensus study report – The Chemistry of Fires at the Wildland-Urban Interface – to address the public health impacts of WUI fires.

The study reviews aspects of the science of WUI fires, including:

  • History of WUI fires and defining characteristics.
  • The materials, combustion and emissions present at WUI fires.
  • The atmospheric transport and chemical transformations of WUI fire emissions over time.
  • Pollutants of concern for human exposure.
  • Methods for collecting data on WUI fires.

The study also makes 2 global recommendations to fill critical data gaps and help inform decision-makers charged with mitigating wildfire impacts on the general public:

  • Establishment of an integrated, multi-disciplinary research agenda for improving understanding of the chemistry, exposures and health impacts of toxicants resulting from WUI fires.
  • Development of tools, resources and messaging designed to inform a wide variety of decision-makers charged with mitigating wildland and WUI fire impacts.

This article is based on content in the
Jan. 26, 2023 InfoGram.

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