The number of large and intense wildfires has been increasing in the western United States over the last couple of years.  Such wildfires can cause great loss of life and property.  Furthermore, smoke can travel great distances and impact communities thousands of miles away.  Because of this, scientists study the conditions under which wildfires begin and become intense, how wildfires grow over time, and what is in a smoke plume that could negatively impact air quality and human health.  On this page, explore the science of wildfires, the scientists studying them, and ways you can get involved.


Featured Scientist: Frank Flocke, Ph.D.

Featured scientist graphic for Frank Flocke


Virtual Panels

Scientists talking with the pilot in the cockpit of a research aircraft during a research mission to study wildfire smokeExplore the science of wildfires and the people studying them with two panel discussions:


Video: The WE-CAN Team

It takes diverse teams of people to tackle complex problems and for science to be a success.  Meet the team of WE-CAN who studied wildfires across the western United States.


GLOBE Teacher's Guide: Fire Fuel

GLOBE logo showing the silhouette of three children pointing at the EarthThe Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment (GLOBE) Program is an international science and education program providing students and the public the chance to participate in scientific data collection, and add to our understanding of the Earth system.  This guide outlines how you can observe land in your own community for potential fire fuel.  Explore many more multilingual resources available on the GLOBE website. 


Participatory Science: Smoke Sense Study

Smoke Sense logo showing a cartoon wildfire and smoke plumeThe Smoke Sense Study is a project from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that studies the health affects of wildfire smoke. Through a free mobile app, the EPA shares information about current wildfires and air quality each day. Participate anonymously through the app to gather information about health symptoms related to wildfires, and complete various challenges on the app. Protect your health and be a scientist with Smoke Sense.