This paper compares measurements of gaseous and particulate emissions from a wide range of biomass-burning plumes intercepted by the NASA DC-8 research aircraft during the three phases of the ARCTAS-2008 experiment: ARCTAS-A, based out of Fairbanks, Alaska USA (3 April to 19 April 2008); ARCTAS-B based out of Cold Lake, Alberta, Canada (29 June to 13 July 2008); and ARCTAS-CARB, based out of Palmdale, California, USA (18 June to 24 June 2008). Extensive investigations of boreal fire plume evolution were undertaken during ARCTAS-B, where four distinct fire plumes that were intercepted by the aircraft over a range of down-wind distances (0.1 to 16 hr transport times) were studied in detail. Based on these analyses, there was no evidence for ozone production and a box model simulation of the data confirmed that net ozone production was slow (on average 1 ppbv h−1 in the first 3 h and much lower afterwards) due to limited NOx. Peroxyacetyl nitrate concentrations (PAN) increased with plume age and the box model estimated an average production rate of ~80 pptv h−1 in the first 3 h. Like ozone, there was also no evidence for net secondary inorganic or organic aerosol formation. There was no apparent increase in aerosol mass concentrations in the boreal fire plumes due to secondary organic aerosol (SOA) formation; however, there were indications of chemical processing of the organic aerosols. In addition to the detailed studies of boreal fire plume evolution, about 500 smoke plumes intercepted by the NASA DC-8 aircraft were segregated by fire source region. The normalized excess mixing ratios (i.e. ΔX/ΔCO) of gaseous (carbon dioxide, acetonitrile, hydrogen cyanide, toluene, benzene, methane, oxides of nitrogen (NOx), ozone, PAN) and fine aerosol particulate components (nitrate, sulfate, ammonium, chloride, organic aerosols and water soluble organic carbon) of these plumes were compared.