Health messaging for prescribed fire smoke

Colorado smoke management permits have very specific requirements about publicizing health risks associated with smoke. This page describes the options.

Wording and related requirements

The exact words of the following message must be included in one item of general public outreach related to the permitted burn:
     Prescribed fire smoke may affect your health. For more information please go to: Wood smoke and health
Include also the name and phone number of a person involved with planning the burn that residents may call.
Send APCD a copy of the outreach you use that includes the health message. Email it to You may send the copy after you obtain the project’s permit but before ignition. Except as noted below, the outreach that includes the health message must be issued at least one week before the project’s first day of ignition for the year or season.

Distribution options

  • Project press release - to local media outlets about the individual prescribed fire.
  • Seasonal press release - A press release that covers two or more burn projects that you or your agency are planning. The general location of each project must be included. Example: seasonal press release about a field office’s planned pile burns for the upcoming winter.
  • Other -  Select and describe some other message distribution method that will be effective for the area near the burn. Examples: flyer on the only gas pump in a very small community, public service announcement distributed to local radio stations, presentation at open meeting of County Commissioners. Except as described below, the health message must be available to anyone in the vicinity and at least as far from the burn as the smell of smoke can possibly be detected. Therefore directed distribution such as to a homeowner association’s email list typically is not sufficient.
  • Letter - If the landowner or agency taking out the smoke management permit will obtain only one permit in the calendar year, you may distribute a letter that CDPHE has written to the project’s immediate neighbors. The letter is available to download here.
  • Content: Fill out the four blanks in the signature block at the bottom of the letter. You may add information below the signature block. However you may not otherwise change the letter.
  • Distribution: We try to use a ‘reasonable person’ test to determine how far away you must advise neighbors. On the permit, indicate the distance from the pile(s) within which you will advise every neighbor. Google Earth can be useful in figuring this out. If homes near the burn are occupied only seasonally you may omit them, but in that case you may burn only on days the homes you did not notify actually are vacant.
  • Timing: You may hand-deliver or email the letter to neighbors as late as 24 hours before your first ignition for the year or season. If you send the letter via U.S. mail, post it at least 5 business days before you start lighting.
  • Applicability: Although agencies or landowners who need multiple permits per year are welcome to use the letter, it may not be the project’s only health message distribution option.
If you have questions about health messaging or another aspect of a smoke management permit, please contact us.