Understanding devastating wildfires

With California’s wildfire season already bringing evacuations, damage to communities and lasting health effects, Stanford faculty have been exploring ways of preventing fires and managing health risks.

California continues to be devastated by wildfires in a scenario that is becoming all the common throughout the West.

Stanford faculty have been studying the health effects of breathing smoke and particulates in communities surrounding California’s wildfires as well as investigating policies and technologies for preventing fires. Other experts are thinking about the lasting financial effects of wildfires on the state – particularly for the state’s largest electric utility, which was found responsible for three of the fires in 2018.

Learn more about ongoing wildfire research by Stanford scholars at wildfire.stanford.edu

This page was last updated Sept. 22, 2020.

Predicting wildfires with CAT scans

Engineers at Stanford have used X-ray CT scans, more common in hospital labs, to study how wood catches fire. They’ve now turned that knowledge into a computer simulation to predict where fires will strike and spread.

Traditional fire management could help revitalize American Indian cultures

In collaboration with tribes in Northern California, researchers examined traditional fire management practices and found that these approaches, if expanded, could strengthen cultures and reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfires.

Living with fires: Mitigating risks with law and environmental policy

Stanford Law Professor Deborah Sivas discusses the effects of climate on fires in California and policy changes that might lessen their danger on residents.

Wildfire weather

Unusual lightning strikes sparked the massive wildfires burning across California. Stanford climate and wildfire experts discuss extreme weather’s role in current and future wildfires, as well as ways to combat the trend toward bigger, more intense conflagrations.

Wildfires’ health impacts

California’s massive wildfires bring a host of health concerns for vulnerable populations, firefighters and others. Kari Nadeau and Mary Prunicki of Stanford’s Sean N. Parker Center for Allergy and Asthma Research discuss related threats, preparedness and ongoing research.

Mapping dry wildfire fuels with AI and new satellite data

Researchers have developed a deep-learning model that maps fuel moisture levels in fine detail across 12 western states, opening a door for better fire predictions.

Increasing risk of extreme wildfire weather

The study finds that autumn days with extreme fire weather have more than doubled in California since the early 1980s due to climate change. The results could contribute to more effective risk mitigation, land management and resource allocation.

Strategic investments for wildfire preparedness

In the midst of a global pandemic, California is entering into wildfire season with reduced resources and higher risks, explained Michael Wara, director of Stanford’s Climate and Energy Program, at a recent event hosted by the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment.

Californians unwilling to subsidize wildfire prevention

Despite statewide devastation from wildfires, a new poll conducted by the Bill Lane Center for the American West shows Californians are still reluctant to subsidize wildfire prevention or support relocating communities at risk.

Wildfire’s impact on water quality

Stanford hydrologist Newsha Ajami, an appointee to California’s regional water quality board, discusses how wildfires affect water quality, and how we can better prepare for and react to the challenges.

Setting fires to avoid fires

Despite having proven effective at reducing wildfire risks, prescribed burns have been stymied by perceived and real risks, regulations and resource shortages. A new analysis highlights ways of overcoming those barriers, offering solutions for wildfire-ravaged landscapes.

New treatment prevents wildfires

Scientists and engineers worked with state and local agencies to develop and test a long-lasting, environmentally benign fire-retarding material. If used on high-risk areas, the simple, affordable treatment could dramatically cut the number of fires that occur each year.

Understanding and preparing for wildfire season

The new normal for Western wildfires is abnormal, with increasingly bigger and more destructive blazes. Understanding the risks can help communities avert disaster.

Wildfire smoke worse for kids’ health than smoke from controlled burns

Immune markers and pollutant levels in the blood indicate wildfire smoke may be more harmful to children’s health than smoke from a controlled burn, Stanford researchers found.

Reflections on the California wildfires

The 2018 fire season in California gave Stanford experts much to think about, including how the state can develop better policies for preventing fires and new research to better understand the long-term effects of breathing smoky air.

Wildfires destroying California bring questions about health and climate

California’s wildfires have destroyed homes and communities, and even people hundreds of miles away are feeling the effects of smoke. Stanford faculty weigh in on the health effects and increasing frequency of fires.

Living with air pollution

Polluted air caused by drifting wildfire smoke is choking the Bay Area. It’s the norm for many people around the world. Globally, long-term exposure to outdoor air pollution is responsible for millions of deaths.

How does poor air quality affect your health?

Bad air quality is an issue for people that comes front and center when California suffers major wildfires.

Stanford Medicine staff help humans, animals in wake of Camp Fire

Health care providers and veterinary technicians from Stanford volunteered to help humans and animals affected by the most destructive fire in California’s history.

Can utilities afford electric vehicle commitments?

Energy policy expert Michael Wara comments on the decision to approve $768 million in transportation electrification projects and how it could affect utilities, the environment and California ratepayers.