About this item

Issue date:
30 September 2023
Corporate Author:
Health New Zealand | Te Whatu Ora
Climate change, Emergency management, Environmental health

When major wildfires occur, public health officers are involved if the public health may be put at risk.  For example, people may ask public health officers for advice on health-related matters such as evacuation and sheltering (that is, staying at home if the conditions are safe to do so), as well as temporary cessation of outdoor public activities (such as concerts or sports).

The purpose of these guidelines is to assist public health officers to minimise risks to public health from wildfires. The guidelines:

  1. describe air quality categories and corresponding cautionary advice and actions for protecting community health during smoke events
  2. provide the best available information on what to do to minimise smoke exposure to protect community health, especially for sensitive groups, during significant smoke events. Sensitive groups include people over 65 years, children, pregnant women, people with heart or respiratory conditions including asthma, people in palliative community care, outdoor workers and people of low socioeconomic status
  3. describe the hazards associated with wildfires that may affect public health.

These guidelines address wildfires, defined as unplanned non-controlled vegetation fires, but they are also relevant for other types of large open fires, such as land clearance and stubble burn-offs, commonly used in agriculture. These guidelines are a companion document to Response to Urban and Built Environment Fires: Guidelines for Public Health Officers (Te Whatu Ora 2023).