Climate Change, Forest Fires, and Health in California

  • Ricardo CisnerosEmail author
  • Don Schweizer
  • Leland (Lee) Tarnay
  • Kathleen Navarro
  • David Veloz
  • C. Trent Procter
Part of the Springer Climate book series (SPCL)


Wildland fire is an important component to ecological health in California forests. Wildland fire smoke is a risk factor to human health. Exposure to smoke from fire cannot be eliminated, but managed fire in a fire-prone ecosystem for forest health and resiliency allows exposure to be mitigated while promoting other ecosystem services that benefit people. The California Sierra Nevada is a paragon of land management policy in a fire-prone natural system. Past fire suppression has led to extreme fuel loading where extreme fire events are much more likely, particularly with climate change increasing the length of fire season and the probability of extreme weather. We use the California Sierra Nevada to showcase the clash of increased development and urbanization, past land management policy, future scenarios including climate change, and the intertwining of ecological health and human health. Fire suppression to avoid smoke impact has proven to be an unreliable way to decrease smoke-related health impacts. Instead ecological beneficial fires should be employed, and their management should be based on smoke impacts at monitors, making air monitoring the foundation of fire management actions giving greater flexibility for managing fires. Tolerance of smoke impacts from restoration fire that is best for forest health and resiliency, as well as for human health, is paramount and preferred over the political expediency of reducing smoke impacts today that ignores that we are mortgaging these impacts to future generations.


Wildland fire smoke Climate change Public health Air quality Policy Ecological health 


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ricardo Cisneros
    • 1
    Email author
  • Don Schweizer
    • 1
    • 2
  • Leland (Lee) Tarnay
    • 2
  • Kathleen Navarro
    • 2
  • David Veloz
    • 1
  • C. Trent Procter
    • 2
  1. 1.Health Science Research InstituteUniversity of CaliforniaMercedUSA
  2. 2.USDA Forest ServicePacific Southwest RegionVallejoUSA

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