Denton firefighters prepare to enter a building during a two-alarm fire on Shady Oaks Drive on Nov. 19.

Yes. Every fire has combustion byproducts that can be benign, such as a small wood fire, or quite harmful, if everything (textiles, paint, plastics and other chemicals) inside a building is burning. Denton Fire Department spokesman David Boots says the smoke is never good to inhale, with “the general rule of thumb that the blacker the smoke, the worse it is.”

In "Environmental Impact of Fire," a paper published in the Sept. 8, 2016, edition of Fire Science Reviews noted several fires worldwide that were deemed catastrophic because of the impacts those fires had on the airshed, the water supply and the soil around the fire. For example, effluent from a 1986 fire at a chemical plant in Basel, Switzerland, contaminated the Rhine River for a decade, and a 1987 fire at a paint manufacturer in Ohio put several drinking aquifers at risk.

Smoke plumes, particularly those from wildland fires, pose the biggest risk to people with breathing problems. But a 2001 fire at a paper mill in France showed that when transformers with PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyl) burn, they present problems for first responders, and the people in the immediate area. Until PCBs, which are now banned, are phased out of use, the threat for exposure to dioxins and other toxic combustion byproducts remains. Tire waste fires leave behind soil pollution as the smoke plume settles, leaving toxic particulate behind.

If the size or nature of a local fire warrants it, the fire marshal will notify state environmental officials, Boots said.

What do you want to know? Email your question for Insight Denton to

Recommended for you