Publication Date


Date of Final Oral Examination (Defense)


Type of Culminating Activity


Degree Title

Master of Science in Civil Engineering


Civil Engineering

Major Advisor

Mojtaba Sadegh, Ph.D.


Bhaskar Chittoori, Ph.D.


Stephen M. Utych, Ph.D.


Thad B. Welch, Ph.D.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.


Wildfire smoke is a growing threat to human livelihood in the Western United States. The economic and the health burden of smoke is accelerating in response to a growing fire season and escalating fire activity. This study first evaluates the trends in air quality over Boise, Idaho and the entire Northwest (and Montana) to assess the impacts of wildfire smoke in the region. The Mann-Kendall trend analysis shows that there is a statistically significant trend in the average and maximum air quality index (AQI) during the fire season (July-August-September) in the Boise area. The AQI shows a decreasing trend, although not statistically significant, for the rest of the year. The analysis of the aerosol optical depth (AOD) provided by MERRA-2 reanalysis from NASA also shows the number of days with average and maximum AOD values above the 90th percentile (higher tail of the AOD distribution) also shows a statistically significant trend over the entire Pacific Northwest and Montana. The second section of this study evaluates the human response to this growing hazard.

While significant strides have been made in modelling wildfire activity, little work has been dedicated to understanding how people perceive and respond to this growing hazard. This is critical because decision-makers need such information to mitigate the negative impacts of smoke. The purpose of this study is to gather and analyze information about the publics’ level of outside activity during smoke event(s), their source of air quality information and their effective messaging preferences, their perception of wildfire smoke as a hazard, and their smoke-related health experiences. This work provides crucial policy-relevant smoke-related social behavioral information to decision-makers, and believe such information should be integrated into risk mitigation decision-making processes. Our results show that roughly 90% of the survey participants observed at least one symptom (most frequently irritated eyes and runny nose) associated with wildfire smoke. A majority of the survey population (80%) perceive smoke as a hazard, but a majority of them are not willing to evacuate their homes to mitigate the adverse impacts of wildfire smoke.