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Wildfire and Respiratory Illness: Linking Fire Events and Attributes to Health Outcomes


  • Moeltner, Klaus
  • Kim, Man-Keun
  • Yang, Wei
  • Zhu, Erqian Julia


Existing studies on the economic impact of wildfire smoke have focused either on single fire events or entire fire seasons without distinguishing between individual occurrences. Neither approach allows for an examination of the marginal effects of fire attributes, such as distance and fuel type, on health impacts and costs. Yet, improved knowledge of these marginal effects can provide important guidance for efficient wildfire management strategies. This study aims to bridge this gap using detailed information on 35 large-scale wildfires in the California and Nevada Sierras that have sent smoke plumes to the Reno / Sparks area of Northern Nevada over a three-year period. We relate the daily acreage burned by these fires to daily data on local hospital admissions for acute respiratory syndrome. Using information on treatment expenses, we compute the per-acre cost of wildfires of different attributes with respect to respiratory admissions. We find that while nearby fires are four-five times more damaging than remote fires, hospital admissions can be causally linked to fires as far as 200-250 miles from the impact area. Our results highlight the economic benefits of fire suppression, and the importance of inter-regional agency collaboration in the management of forest fires.

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  • Moeltner, Klaus & Kim, Man-Keun & Yang, Wei & Zhu, Erqian Julia, 2011. "Wildfire and Respiratory Illness: Linking Fire Events and Attributes to Health Outcomes," 2011 Annual Meeting, July 24-26, 2011, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 103433, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association.
  • Handle: RePEc:ags:aaea11:103433
    DOI: 10.22004/ag.econ.103433

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    Environmental Economics and Policy; Health Economics and Policy; Resource /Energy Economics and Policy;
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