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The Environmental Impacts of the 2016 Rough Ridge Fire in Southern Appalachians
2:00 PM - 2:20 PM
Tue Nov 28, 2017
Citron North


Authors: Yongqiang Liu; Fengjun Zhao; Scott Goodrick; Benjamin Hornsby; Jeffrey Schardt;

This study investigates the environmental impacts of the 2016 Rough Ridge Fire in northern Georgia. A modeling technique was used in combination with fire emission and heat release estimates from a field study. Two smoke incursion events from the fire site to Atlanta were simulated. The smoke contributed remarkably to the measured PM2.5 concentrations, which reached unhealthy levels for sensitive groups. There was a significant increase in emergency clinic visits by patients with respiratory problems in response to the rising PM2.5 concentrations, consistent with medical reports. The simulated degree of air quality degradation depends on the model inputs of smoke particles, which were high due to very dry fuels and deep accumulated duff layers. The high percentage of oil-rich pine to hardwood trees may have contributed to increased heat release which would produce higher plume rise and longer smoke transport. The simulation results suggest that a reduction of potential fire emissions from wildfires through regular prescribed burning and a better understanding of extract property of fuels are valuable for assessing and mitigate the air quality and human health impacts of wildfires in the southern Appalachians.

Yongqiang Liu
Research Meteorologist, USDA Forest Service

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