What can be done about the recent phenomenon of intense wildfire air pollution in the American West? Wildfire science emphasizes the importance of using fire as a natural, regenerative process to maintain forest health and reduce large wildfire air pollution events. But forestry management policy has long emphasized suppressing wildfires, loading forests with fuel and increasing the risk of catastrophic wildfires. As a result, using prescribed fire to restore Western forests and reduce long-term air pollution creates tension with air quality law, because in the short term, prescribed fires will worsen air quality. Despite the exceptional events rule of the Clean Air Act allowing the use of prescribed fire as a wildfire management tool, the local implementation of air quality laws hinders the use of prescribed fire for forest management. Looking to California and more specifically the San Joaquin Valley as a case study, this Note uses new data to show that while land managers and air quality regulators in the San Joaquin Valley have drastically increased their use of prescribed fire, this increase is not sufficient to return the southern Sierra Nevada to a natural fire-adapted ecosystem. Policy makers should pursue even more aggressive options to encourage prescribed fire by modifying the structure of air quality law. Subjecting large wildfires to the requirements of the Clean Air Act would incentivize local air managers to develop plans on how to mitigate the effects of wildfire in the long term. Limiting local air quality regulators’ authority over land managers’ use of prescribed fires would also encourage the use of prescribed fire.