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What's in smoke

Smoke is a collection of airborne particles, usually from fire. Smoke in the air is a complex mixture of: 

  • different size particles  
  • water vapour 
  • gases – including carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds.  

We measure particles in the air using measurements called PM2.5 and PM10.  

PM2.5 are smaller than 2.5 micrometres (µm) in diameter. PM10 are smaller than 10 micrometres. 

Larger soot and ash particles can collect on surfaces. Smaller particles can float in the air, even travelling long distances. 

Types of smoke 

Different types of fires can make different types of smoke. 

The make-up of smoke depends on what’s burning. For example, plant-matter or human-made materials. 

The impact on the community can depend on the weather and how close the fire is.  

Find out how these different types of smoke can impact your health. 

Bushfires and planned burn smoke

Smoke from bushfires and planned burns can cause poor air quality across large parts of Victoria.

Fine particles in bushfire smoke are small enough for you to breathe into your lungs.  

For information about when planned burns are happening, visit the Forest Fire Management Victoria website.

VicEmergency informs Victorians of emergencies in real time. Get information from the VicEmergency:

For those who are deaf, hard of hearing, or have a speech/communication impairment, call VicEmergency Hotline via the National Relay Service on 1800 555 677.

Woodfire heater smoke

During the colder months, wood heaters and open fireplaces contribute significantly to air pollution in Victoria. Woodfire heaters that comply with Australian Standards AS 4012 and AS 4013 are better. Approved and more modern heaters burn wood more efficiently and produce less smoke.  

Coal mine and peat fire smoke

Smoke from coal mine fires and peat fires can be unpredictable. These fires can be difficult to put out and can smoulder for a long time. This can make it hard to predict the: 

  • size of the fire 
  • length of time it burns
  • amount of smoke 
  • amount of ash.   

Landfill fire smoke

Waste from industry, businesses or homes may contain flammable substances or chemicals. This makes the risk from landfill fire smoke unpredictable.   

Tyre fire smoke 

Tyres are made from a combination of rubber, steel and textiles. This can produce thick, black smoke. Tyre fires can be difficult to put out and last for a long time.    

Read more about smoke 

Smoke and the law 

Report smoke 

Smoke and your health

Emergency information

Reviewed 10 June 2020