The research team's objective is to integrate and build upon recent research findings in fuel structure and dynamics, fire behavior and plume dynamics, and to improve the characterization of ozone (O3) and particulate matter (PM) formation in prescribed fire plumes so that more effective burns can be conducted at Department of Defense (DoD) lands with minimal adverse air quality impacts. The team will combine the state-of-science capabilities in simulation models that will help DoD land managers to engineer their burns for optimal outcomes. The team will also participate in national campaigns and conduct additional field studies and use the data we will collect, along with the pool of existing data, to evaluate these models and reduce their uncertainties.

Technical Approach

TECHNOLOGY DESCRIPTIONOur approach comprises five tasks with the following objectives: 1) Explore recent developments in representing fuel structure and dynamics, and evaluate their impact on reducing the uncertainties in emissions and improving the simulations of smoke models; 2) Investigate how recent advances in representing fire behavior and plume dynamics improve the ability to simulate the effects of alternative ignition methods; 3) Improve the characterization of O3 and PM formation from precursors emitted as a result of fires under both flaming and smoldering conditions; 4) Develop, and evaluate with field data, an air quality modeling system that combines recent improvements in characterization of fire behavior, combustion, emissions and plume dynamics with chemistry and transport at the regional scale; and 5) Assess the air quality impacts of alternative burn management practices to identify best practices. In Task 1, the research team will characterize the fuels and their moisture content in very high spatial resolution through a combination of field inventories, Light Detection and Range (LIDAR) measurements and 3-D computer modeling. Task 2 will be an evaluation of the Quick Urban and Industrial Complex (QUIC)-Fire model’s ability to produce detailed estimates of fuel consumption, heat release and fire behavior. In Task 3, the team will conduct long-term ground based field studies and collect air quality data to better understand the contribution of prescribed burns to regional O3 and PM levels. In Task 4, the team will develop an air quality modeling system by coupling QUIC-Fire with Community Multiscale Air Quality Modeling System (CMAQ) to accurately simulate prescribed fire impacts on regional air quality, and evaluate the system by using the data collected in Task 3. The coupling between QUIC-Fire and CMAQ will add fire plume chemistry to QUIC-Fire until the transfer of the plume to CMAQ. In Task 5, the team will use the coupled modeling system to estimate the air quality impacts of prescribed fires under different management practices.


A major outcome of the project will be an increased understanding of the air quality impacts of prescribed burning on DoD and other lands throughout the Southeastern and Western States. We expect this project to benefit prescribed burning operations throughout the nation. Another product will be a modeling system that relates spatially detailed fuel structures and moisture contents to fire progression, embodies fire-atmosphere interaction and the organization of convective structures into a multi-core plume, tracks plume chemistry, and accurately predicts the impacts of prescribed burns on O3 and PM levels both locally and regionally. A computationally efficient surrogate system will also be built to aid fire managers in determining the best burning practices for minimal air quality impacts in near-real time.