The Lek

Volume 2:2 2013

Managing Smoke in the Great Plains

Gearing up
for fire in the Great Plains

 What to do about smoke?

Photo: Broad smoke column at a burn in Kansas. Heartland Inventory and Monitoring Network.

Photo:  Patch burn at the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve
from the Heartland Inventory and Monitoring Network

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Smoke Management in Prescribed Burning

All wildland fires produce smoke plumes that contain embers, particulates, nitrous oxides, and volatile organic compounds. In grassland prescribed fires, embers generally drop out rapidly, frequently within the burned area. Particulates and gasses, however, can cause air quality problems downwind. 
  • Particulates are tiny solids designated as PM10 or PM2.5. Both types are cleaned from the air by rain.
  • Nitrous oxides (NOx) and volatile organic compounds (VOC) are gasses released during combustion. They combine in the presence of sunshine to form ozone. Smoke plumes can travel hundreds of miles from the source. Ozone can cause health problems.
  • Many prescribed fires burning simultaneously can cause a smoke plume that travels hundreds of miles
  • Burn on days when smoke dispersal is and when fuels are dry to increase combustion and reduce smoke production.
Full story 
by Carol Blocksome
Horses graze near a Flint Hills prescribed fire
parts of a fire

Ignition Techniques Can Mitigate Smoke

A lot of smoke management is not really about the reduction of emissions but the redistribution of emissions.  This is done by choosing wind direction, atmospheric conditions such as mixing height, and then ignition techniques to manage the convection.  Perhaps less discussed, are ignition techniques themselves. 

Here are some basic guidelines to planning ignition techniques to reduce smoke emissions.  We must be aware however, of potential tradeoffs between reduced smoke emissions and achieving ecological goals with fire. When choosing an ignition technique, consider many factors, including smoke, and prioritize them with respect to objectives and risks. (Image from Oklahoma State University)

Fire and People - Part II

Susan McCaffrey and Christine Olsen surveyed people across the country to learn how the public perceives wildfire.  Some of the things they learned were contrary to the fire communities' conventional wisdom.  This article is the second in a series highlighting some of the important findings from this report.   

 Question 2: Who are trusted information sources about fire?  

"First, no single source is the best—it will vary by location and by type of information needed. Second, the most used information sources are not necessarily the most trustworthy, and trustworthy information sources are not inherently useful. Third, government sources are generally a preferred information source and are often, but not always, highly rated. Finally, perhaps the most important characteristic in determining whether an information source is trusted and useful is if it allows for interactive exchange..." 

Upcoming Events

April 1 Oklahoma Conservation and Prescribed Fire Day at the capital building.
April 2-4  1st National Adaptation Forum  / Denver,CO.
April 16-17 Prescribed Fire and Indiana Bats / near Robbinsville, NC
April 16-17 Wildland/Urban Interface Fire Mitigation Workshop Catoosa, OK
June 26 Summer burn tour @ Marietta, OK
July 16-17 Grassland Restoration Network meeting in Columbia, MO

August 12-14  America's Grassland Conference Manhattan, KS
September 23-26 Patch burn grazing annual meeting in borderlands of South Dakota/ Minnesota
October 8-10 Wildland Fire in the Appalachians / Roanoke, VA Information: and
November 14-16 Backyards & Beyond Wildland Fire Education Conference
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