The episodes with highly elevated concentrations of particulate matter (PM10), NOx, and CO were detected in the city of Vilnius between August and September 2002 and possible reasons were analysed. This increase was attributed to emissions from fires in the vicinity of the city of Vilnius when data on fire location and start, wind direction and concentrations of pollutants were analysed. The correlation coefficient between PM 10 and CO, NO, NO2, NOx increased during the fire period in comparison with the same correlation after the fire period. During the fire episodes, there was an increase in concentration of ozone precursors, and meteorological conditions were favourable for photochemical reactions. Therefore, the hourly values for ozone exceeded the values common for Vilnius. Generally, during the episodes, the maximum of NO2 concentrations was 2 times higher than the limit value for NO2 laid down in the Council Directives 1999/30/EC [Council Directive 1999/30/EC of 22 April 1999 relating to limit values for sulphur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide and oxides of nitrogen, particulate matter and lead in ambient air. Official Journal L 163, 29/06/1999: 0041-0060], and that of PM 10 was even 5.5 times higher than the limit value for PM10. Human health effects study in Vilnius indicated that the incidents of documented respiratory diseases and exacerbation of the bronchial asthma during the fire period were up to 20 times higher in comparison to periods with no fires. (c) 2005 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.