1University of Montana, Department of Chemistry, Missoula, MT 59812, USA
2Pacific Northwest National Laboratories, Richland, WA 99354, USA
3University of Wollongong, Department of Chemistry, Wollongong, New South Wales, Australia
4USDA Forest Service, Pacific Southwest Research Station, Forest Fire Laboratory, Riverside, CA 92507, USA
5USDA Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory, Missoula, MT 59808, USA
Abstract. We report trace-gas emission factors from three pine-understory prescribed fires in South Carolina, US measured during the fall of 2011. The fires were more intense than many prescribed burns because the fuels included mature pine stands not subjected to prescribed fire in decades that were lit following an extended drought. The emission factors were measured with a fixed open-path Fourier transform infrared (OP-FTIR) system that was deployed on the fire control lines. We compare these emission factors to those measured with a roving, point sampling, land-based FTIR and an airborne FTIR that were deployed on the same fires. We also compare to emission factors measured by a similar OP-FTIR system deployed on savanna fires in Africa. The data suggest that the method used to sample smoke can strongly influence the relative abundance of the emissions that are observed. The majority of the fire emissions were lofted in the convection column and they were sampled by the airborne FTIR along with the downwind chemistry. The roving, ground-based, point sampling FTIR measured the contribution of actively located individual residual smoldering combustion fuel elements scattered throughout the burn site. The OP-FTIR provided a ~30 m path-integrated sample of emissions transported to the fixed path via complex ground-level circulation. The OP-FTIR typically probed two distinct combustion regimes, "flaming-like" (immediately after adjacent ignition and before the adjacent plume achieved significant vertical development) and "smoldering-like." These two regimes are denoted "early" and "late", respectively. The emission factors from all three systems were plotted versus modified combustion efficiency and for some species (e.g. CH4 and CH3OH) they fit a single trend suggesting that the different emission factors for these species were mainly due to the specific mix of flaming and smoldering that each system sampled. For other species, the different fuels sampled also likely contributed to platform differences in emission factors. The path-integrated sample of the ground-level smoke layer adjacent to the fire provided by the OP-FTIR also provided our best estimate of fire-line exposure to smoke for wildland fire personnel. We provide a table of estimated fire-line exposures for numerous known air toxics based on synthesizing results from several studies. Our data suggest that peak exposures are more likely to challenge permissible exposure limits for wildland fire personnel than shift-average (8 h) exposures.