Media Tip Sheet: 2009 California Wildfires

Note to Reporters: Colorado State University experts are available to talk about a variety of subjects related to the devastating California wildfires. The following list of faculty members is provided for media use only, not members of the general public.


Regional air quality
Jeff Collett, professor of atmospheric chemistry in the Atmospheric Science department in the College of Engineering, can talk about the wildfires’ effect on regional air quality. Collett studies regional air quality issues with a focus on atmospheric aerosols, their effects, and their interactions with clouds and precipitation. His research is directed toward understanding atmospheric processing of various chemical species and their impacts on pollutant deposition, visibility degradation, and human health. Currently, he’s exploring effects of anthropogenic nitrogen emissions, impacts of smoke from biomass burning, sulfur transformation in clouds, and development of new techniques for characterizing the chemical composition of atmospheric aerosol particles. To speak with Collett, contact Emily Wilmsen at (970) 491-2336 or

Where there’s smoke, there are health impacts
Environmental Health experts can discuss a variety of issues related to the impact of the California fires on air quality in the area local to the fire as well as across the West. Two researchers from the Department of Environmental and Radiological Health Sciences who specialize in air quality studies can discuss the risks of exposure to these high levels of smoke and what it means for a healthy person or unhealthy person and discuss how this changes by proximity to the fire source; how the fires impact visibility around the west; why the smoke makes for brilliant sunsets, sunrises and harvest moons; strategies to avoid exposure to the smoke; and what the ‘smoke’ consists of, such as chemicals or other compounds. They can point the public to resources in their area around the nation where they can do their own research related to the plume direction and impact on specific communities. To talk with these experts, contact Dell Rae Moellenberg at or (970) 491-6009.

Fire behavior and effects
Bill Romme, fire ecology professor, can discuss fire management policies, the effects of fires on organisms, populations, communities and ecosystems as well as the ecological role of fire in various major vegetation types of North America. He can also talk about the effects of fires in Yellowstone National Park on nitrogen and carbon cycling and re-growth of lodgepole pine forests. To speak with Romme, contact Kimberly Sorensen at (970) 491-0757 or

Monique Rocca, professor of wildland fire science, is available to talk about the role of wildfire in natural ecosystems, fire behavior, how human activities have altered patterns of fires, and how management activities such as fire suppression, prescribed fire and forest thinning can affect natural ecosystems and future wildfires. She can also discuss the effects of the mountain pine beetle outbreak in Colorado on future wildfires and what the future may hold for the affected forests. To speak with Rocca, contact Kimberly Sorensen at (970) 491-0757 or

Wildfire risk reduction and forest restoration
Robert Sturtevant, extension forestry specialist with Colorado State’s Department of Forest, Rangeland, and Watershed Stewardship, can discuss wildfire mitigation around homes and subdivisions, the use of fire for restoring forests, the role of wildfire in creating existing forests and how the suppression of fires has changed the natural cycles of the forest. He can also talk about the role insects are playing in changing forests in the absence of wildfire. To speak with Sturtevant, contact Kimberly Sorensen at (970) 491-0757 or

Public policy and community planning
Tony Cheng, director of the Colorado Forest Restoration Institute, can talk about ways to reduce risks of catastrophic wildfires to homes and communities and improve the health of Colorado’s forests. The Colorado Forest Restoration Institute was established by Congress to actively restore forest heath and reduce the risk of severe wildfires to communities. Cheng can also talk about community wildfire protection planning, public participation in forest management, planning sustainable wildfire mitigation and forest restoration plans. To speak with Cheng, contact Kimberly Sorensen at (970) 491-0757 or

Wildfire economics
Douglas Rideout, director of the Western Forest Fire Research center (WESTFIRE) and wildfire economist, can discuss the economics, strategic planning and management of wild and prescribed fires, the wildland urban interface, strategic analysis and budgeting of fire programs, fuel management and initial attack systems. WESTFIRE has played a central role in the construction and implementation of a new generation of fire planning systems being implemented on federal lands to support fire program planning. To speak with Rideout, contact Kimberly Sorensen at (970) 491-0757 or