Faculty Advisor

Mark Potosnak


Prescribed burns are a land management tool currently used to aid in fire mitigation and promotion of plant growth of desired species and reduction of undesired species, which are often invasive species. Currently there is public stigma surrounding prescribed burns which limits their use in certain parts of the US. There are also particular challenges of conducting prescribed burns in urban and suburban areas. A better understanding of prescribed burns and their impact on atmospheric chemistry and air quality can allow for better communication with the public about their positive impacts and also acknowledge and quantify any potential drawbacks. This study looks at the particulate matter emissions of prescribed fires being conducted in the greater Chicago area. We employed low-cost sensors to measure particulate matter emissions at several sites in the Chicagoland area in the spring and fall of 2022. With the ever-expanding wildland-urban interface, understanding particulate matter emissions of prescribed fires set in populated areas can help provide more data regarding prescribed fire emissions and air quality impacts. These impacts should be weighed against the benefits of prescribed burns and also potential air quality impacts from uncontrolled burns from ecosystems that are not treated with prescribed burns. Measuring air quality impacts can also inform fire management practices with the goal of reducing future emissions. With the very present effects of climate change, understanding baselines regarding prescribed fire can better equip future research and fire professionals in fighting fire with fire.