Wildfire Specific Hazards

Wildfire’s impact to property, public health and the environment can expand several hundred miles from the actual burn zone. Direct property loss due to extreme heat damage can directly affect properties adjacent to the wilderness.  However, communities several hundred miles downwind from the fire may also be consequentially affected as combustion particles are lofted high into the air by the fires extreme heat then driven great distances by prevailing winds. Feather-light ash produced by the intense heat of combustion and other smoke constituents including, solid particles, liquids, aerosols and gases can exist in the atmosphere for variable periods of time and continue to deposit long after the fire has been extinguished. The broad distribution capabilities and impacts of combustion by-products and emissions produced by wildfires can result in widespread public exposure to potentially toxic materials.  

Wildfire particles can both migrate and infiltrate into the built environment through open doors and windows, on shoes and clothing, through the ventilation system and unperceived gaps in the building envelope. Studies have shown, penetration rates can be highly influenced by building characteristics, meteorology, and particle size/composition. Settled combustion particles on building surfaces or personal property can emit volatile materials which may be the source of persistent odors and/or result in an alteration in appearance or value.