Summary for Managers: Non-targeted Analysis of Stormwater Runoff following the 2017 Northern San Francisco Bay Area Wildfires. SFEI Contribution No. 1045. San Francisco Estuary Institute: Richmond, CA.2021.
Urban-wildland interfaces in the western US are increasingly threatened by the growing number and intensity of wildfires, potentially changing the type of contaminants released into the landscape as more urban structures are burned. In October 2017, the Tubbs, Nuns, and Atlas wildfires devastated communities in Northern California (Figure 1), burning over 8,500 buildings and 210,000 acres of land in the span of 24 days (California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection 2017). Together, these wildfires were the most destructive and costliest fires in the history of California at that time (California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection 2019).
Post-wildfire monitoring efforts in impacted watersheds typically focus on a few well-established water quality and chemistry concerns (McKee et al. 2018). Few studies go beyond these limited targeted analyses and attempt to identify the multitude of other fire-related compounds that are released from or form as the result of combustion of residential, commercial, and industrial structures in urban-wildland interfaces. Some of these unidentified compounds may be toxic to aquatic ecosystems or human health, and may pose risks to wildlife or in water bodies that act as drinking water supplies to nearby communities.