New CARB app tracks prescribed burn smoke for Californians

California Air Resources Board launches California Smoke App that will track smoke from prescribed burns

SACRAMENTO – The summer heat is already here, and if the recent past is any indication, massive wildfires are on the way.

One of the tools the state uses to help mitigate wildfires is prescribed burns. Prescribed burns consume fuel that would otherwise be burned in a wildfire. While the state and counties move through a schedule of prescribed burns, residents can track the smoke they’ll give off in a new app that was launched by the California Aire Resources Board (CARB).

Titled the California Smoke Spotter app Californians are supposed to get a comprehensive overview of the latest information on prescribed fires, projected smoke impacts, current air quality and educational material. This will help them plan their day’s activities, and also determine if smoke is from a local prescribed fire. Key features of the app include:

  • Location, size, and burn status
  • 24-hour statewide smoke forecasts
  • Personalized alerts that notify users when a prescribed fire will be burning nearby (notifications can be set for multiple locations)
  • Current Air Quality Index (AQI) data to help users make health-based decisions
  • Additional information on prescribed fire, its benefits, and how users can protect themselves from smoke

“That’s where California Smoke Spotter comes in,” CARB executive officer Richard W. Corey said. “Until now, Californians have had to bounce between multiple sources to get the information they need to protect themselves from smoke. By providing a one-stop-shop for prescribed fire, smoke and health information, this app will make that process easier and more accessible to everyone.”

CARB announced the launch of California Smoke Spotter at the first meeting of Governor Newsom’s newly expanded Wildfire and Forest Resilience Task Force. The announcement came less than a week after the governor unveiled his revised budget plan for the state. The California Comeback Plan will include $2 billion in emergency preparedness investments, including land and forest management projects like prescribed fire.

State forestry policy calls for an increase in fuels reduction efforts including the use of prescribed fire. CARB supports that policy and is releasing California Smoke Spotter during the spring burning season as part of its efforts to help the state balance air quality protection with fire protection and land management goals.

“CARB has been an important partner in the state’s efforts to increase the use of prescribed fire to protect local communities,” Chief Thom Porter, state forester and director of California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said. “As Cal Fire continues to increase the use of prescribed fire, having a tool for citizens to monitor potential smoke impacts will be imperative in helping Californians protect themselves from localized prescribed fire smoke.”

CARB will update the California Smoke Spotter app as new data and technology become available. Staff is already working on an update to add information and smoke forecasts for wildfires to the app later this year.

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