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Can Air Quality Management Drive Sustainable Fuels Management at the Temperate Wildland–Urban Interface?

1
School of Biological Sciences, University of Tasmania, Hobart, TAS 7001, Australia
2
Department of Forest and Conservation Sciences, The University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC V6T 1Z4, Canada
3
Menzies Institute for Medical Research, University of Tasmania, Hobart, TAS 7000, Australia
4
US Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory, Missoula, MT 59808, USA
5
Department of Environmental and Radiological Health Sciences, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO 80523, USA
6
US Environmental Protection Agency, National Health and Environmental Effects Research Laboratory, Environmental Public Health Division, Research Triangle Park, NC 27709, USA
7
School of Population and Public Health, The University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC V6T 1Z3, Canada
8
Environmental Health Services, British Columbia Centre for Disease Control, Vancouver, BC V5Z 4R4, Canada
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 30 May 2018 / Revised: 3 August 2018 / Accepted: 7 August 2018 / Published: 9 August 2018
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Abstract

Sustainable fire management has eluded all industrial societies. Given the growing number and magnitude of wildfire events, prescribed fire is being increasingly promoted as the key to reducing wildfire risk. However, smoke from prescribed fires can adversely affect public health. We propose that the application of air quality standards can lead to the development and adoption of sustainable fire management approaches that lower the risk of economically and ecologically damaging wildfires while improving air quality and reducing climate-forcing emissions. For example, green fire breaks at the wildland–urban interface (WUI) can resist the spread of wildfires into urban areas. These could be created through mechanical thinning of trees, and then maintained by targeted prescribed fire to create biodiverse and aesthetically pleasing landscapes. The harvested woody debris could be used for pellets and other forms of bioenergy in residential space heating and electricity generation. Collectively, such an approach would reduce the negative health impacts of smoke pollution from wildfires, prescribed fires, and combustion of wood for domestic heating. We illustrate such possibilities by comparing current and potential fire management approaches in the temperate and environmentally similar landscapes of Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Canada and the island state of Tasmania in Australia. View Full-Text
Keywords: fire management; fuels management; wildfire; prescribed fire; mechanical thinning; green fire breaks; smoke; air pollution; public health; air quality regulation fire management; fuels management; wildfire; prescribed fire; mechanical thinning; green fire breaks; smoke; air pollution; public health; air quality regulation
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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).
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MDPI and ACS Style

Bowman, D.M.J.S.; Daniels, L.D.; Johnston, F.H.; Williamson, G.J.; Jolly, W.M.; Magzamen, S.; Rappold, A.G.; Brauer, M.; Henderson, S.B. Can Air Quality Management Drive Sustainable Fuels Management at the Temperate Wildland–Urban Interface? Fire 2018, 1, 27.

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