USDA Forest Service

Fire and Environmental Research Applications Team


Fire and Environmental Research Applications Team
Pacific Wildland Fire Sciences Laboratory

400 N 34th Street, Suite 201
Seattle, WA 98103

(206) 732-7800

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United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service.

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Evaluating the Effectiveness of Mitigation Activities in the Wildland Urban Interface (WUI)

Despite the increasing frequency and losses from WUI fires, there has been relatively little research, compared to fires within structures, on WUI fire spread. This is due, in part, to the fact that the subject of WUI fire research falls between traditional studies of building fires and forest fires, non-overlapping areas that in the past have been the responsibility of different branches of the government. To date, no study that measures the effectiveness of current risk mitigation practices, whether through wildland fuel treatments or modification of residential fuels, has been conducted.

Hazard mitigation actions in this proposal are defined as actions that can reduce the ignition potential of a structure at the WUI. Mitigation actions fall into two categories, those taken within the community (on residential parcels) and those taken on the surrounding wildlands (wildland fuel treatments). While both can affect the ignition potential of structures at the WUI, the proposed research effort is focused on residential parcel hazard mitigation approaches. For the proposed effort to be effective, for scenarios where the fire arrives to the community from the wildlands, the fire and ember exposure from the wildlands needs to be characterized.

There is significant synergy, therefore, between the proposed work here and the response by Mell et al. to Task 9. Fuel Treatments at the Wildland Urban Interface. If both proposals are funded, the two PIs will work together in answering the technical questions of Tasks 3 and 9. In order to make the proposed effort self contained, however, this proposal is focused on mitigation approaches within WUI communities.

The proposed effort will use the NIST WUI 2 GIS-based data collection methodology. Data collections will be conducted in two states with very significant WUI fire problems, namely California and Texas. The major components of the proposed effort are to:

  • Identify WUI communities of interest in California and Texas
  • Train field data collectors
  • Conduct pre-fire data collections in California and/or Texas
  • Conduct post-fire data collections – locations may be outside California or Texas
  • Analyze the data
  • Identify the effectiveness of mitigation actions
  • Document results
  • Document entire methodology to enable future work both in similar as well as in differing ecosystems and building constructions communities.

The benefits of the proposed effort are:

  • First evaluation of the effectiveness of mitigation activities in the WUI
  • A proven pre and post-fire WUI data collection methodology for collecting structural
    and landscaping attributes
  • A proven post-fire data collection methodology for collecting fire responder and homeowner defensive actions
  • Pre-fire documentation of two high risk WUI communities
  • Post-fire documentation of up to 3 WUI fire communities
  • A tested methodology for pre and post-fire WUI community data analysis
  • A framework for future data collection and analysis work

Estimated Completion Date: September 30, 2014

Project Lead: Alex Maranghides


Logo of the Joint Fire Science ProgramWe acknowledge funding from the Joint Fire Science Program under Project 11-1-3-29

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