A practical approach to using fire simulations for operational planning and ecological research
For federal land management agencies, a national-scale assessment of wildfire risk offers a consistent means of understanding and comparing threats to valued resources and predicting and prioritizing investments in management activities to mitigate those risks.
Rocky Mountain Research Station scientists have developed a simulation system designed to estimate the probabilistic components of wildfire risk for Fire Planning Units (FPUs) across the conterminous United States, and evaluated its performance against historical records. They found that simulated burn probabilities were comparable to observed patterns across the Country. Combining the probability outputs with resource values and responses to fire, researchers have created a national-scale geospatial wildfire risk assessment tool.
This research demonstrates a practical approach to using fire simulations at very broad scales for operational planning and ecological research. The risk assessment tool helps managers monitor trends in wildfire risk over time and prioritize fuel treatments and mitigation measures. Findings are being used in national wildfire decision support applications such as Fire Program Analysis (FPA) and the Forest Service and Department of Interior Hazardous Fuel Prioritization and Allocation System, and to create national maps of wildfire potential. FPA is currently using the MyFireCommunity.net collaboration site and a series of webinars to present the data to the wildland fire community and other stakeholders.
For additional information, see: Finney, M. A., C. W. McHugh, I. C. Grenfell, K. L. Riley, and Karen C. Short. 2011. A Simulation of Probabilistic wildfire risk components for the continental United States. Stochastic Environmental Research and Risk Assessment. Available: http://www.springerlink.com/content/3q4565q27747808k/fulltext.pdf [July 1, 2011]; and Thompson, M. P., D. E. Calkin, M. A. Finney, A. A. Ager, and J. W. Gilbertson-Day. 2011. Integrated National-Scale Assessment of Wildfire Risk to Human and Ecological Values. Stochastic Environmental Research and Risk Assessment 25:761-780.