About Us

HAQAST: 2017 Northern California Wildfires Tiger Team

Lead Contacts: Susan O'Neill, US Forest Service & Minghui Diao, San Jose State University

Short url: http://bit.ly/haqasttiger

On October 8-9, 2017, a series of wildfires started in the northern San Francisco Bay Area, spread quickly over nine counties and became major fires in the region. During the 9-day wildfire period, more than 160,000 acres were burned, about 8,400 houses and other buildings were destroyed, 43 people died, 185 people were hospitalized, and over 100,000 people were displaced or evacuated. Because of the smoke and prevailing weather conditions, PM2.5 concentrations reached the highest levels ever recorded in the region. All 13 air monitoring stations in the Bay Area captured at least one exceedance of the US EPA’s 24-hr average PM2.5 standard of 35 µg/m3, and the majority of them captured multiple days of exceedances. Daily (24-hr average) PM2.5 concentrations reached 400 µg/m3 at air monitoring stations near the fires and tapered off to 40-50 µg/m3 in areas more distant from the fires. Thus, virtually all of the 7.2 million people living in the Bay Area were exposed to unhealthy air during the wildfire period.

Proposed Work

Assess the effects of wildfire smoke on air quality and human health burden resulting from October 2017 California wildfires using a combination of satellite data, air quality modeling, health risk information and hospital incidence rates.

Four components comprise this project:

      1. compile a fire emission inventory,

      2. conduct air quality modeling,

      3. evaluate and improve the model results with satellite observations,

      4. conduct a health impact analysis.

Stakeholders (PDF)


Wildfire smoke impacts will recur in the future in California and elsewhere, and having a system that can accurately estimate those impacts, not only in terms of PM2.5, but in terms of short-term exposure-response relationships is critical to future planning of emergency responders to protect public health.


Stakeholders such as the BAAQMD envision using this project information as a basis for an emergency response manual to help inform emergency responders regarding expected levels of ambient PM based on the nature of wildfire and the number of people who may need medical attention, etc. (Deliverable: Case study document of lessons learned to inform this manual. This has synergies with the work of the Fiore TT and elements of this document could also be used to support an Exceptional Event demonstration).


This work will lead to a significantly refined satellite-based fire activity system (VIIRS, MODIS, GOES-16) used in daily smoke forecasting, supporting personnel deployed on wildfires. Furthermore, this work has great utility for the upcoming 2017 EPA National Emission Inventory (NEI) effort (per EPA Stakeholders).


Prototype air quality modeling system specific to wildfire smoke impacts, improved with remotely sensed data: This work will improve the existing air quality modeling system of the BAAQCD (newly coupled with the fire activity information system) through comparisons (and in some cases, fusion) with MODIS AOD and CrIS CO and NH3 fields. It will demonstrate a prototype air quality modeling system on a national scale (the GMU system), customizable to a finer grid resolution for a State or regional analysis (e.g. BAAQMD domain) that quantifies impacts from wildland fire smoke.


A merging of these fire/air quality system improvements with short-term exposure-response relationships to estimate health burden of PM2.5. A health impact assessment of wildfire smoke on the population of northern California for October 2017 based upon satellite supported air quality modeling and evaluated with health data.


        • Results will be published in peer-reviewed publication(s) such as the Journal of Air & Waste Management Association (JA&WMA).

        • Training Module (s)

        • Products as detailed in the Communication Plan (Webinars, Presentations, Website)