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Individual Highlight

Assessing Fire Risk at the Wildland-urban Interface Using LiDAR

Photo of Brighton Development in Barnegat Township, 2007 Warren Grove Wildfire. Gregory S. McLaughlin, New Jersey Forest Fire ServiceBrighton Development in Barnegat Township, 2007 Warren Grove Wildfire. Gregory S. McLaughlin, New Jersey Forest Fire ServiceSnapshot : Assessing wildland fire risk in the wildland–urban interface is difficult because each home and parcel has unique characteristics. Forest Service scientists found that Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) and aerial photography data closely matched fuels estimates made by ground crews.

Principal Investigators(s) :
Skowronski, Nicholas 
Research Location : New Jersey
Research Station : Northern Research Station (NRS)
Year : 2015
Highlight ID : 874

Summary

Assessing wildland fire risk in the wildland–urban interface (WUI) is difficult because of the unique characteristics of each home and parcel. These risk estimates are important for making policy decisions, targeting fuel reduction treatments, and potentially for insurance rate determination. Currently, risk mapping in these areas is conducted by an assessor on the ground using a visual scoring system that is both subjective and time consuming. Several Forest Service scientists at the agency’s Northern Research Station and their research partners worked to develop an approach that used Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) data and aerial photography to characterize the fuels for more than 7,000 individual structures and parcels. The researchers’ remote sensing findings closely matched fuels estimates collected by ground crews in the same area. Scientists found that a large proportion of homeowners were unable to manage hazardous fuels in the critical 100 feet around their homes without the cooperation of adjacent property owners. This methodology can be easily scaled to provide regional assessments. The knowledge gained in this study can help guide risk-mitigation practices and zoning policy and serve as a pilot to future large-scale studies.

Forest Service Partners

External Partners

  • Kenneth Clark and Michael Gallagher, USDA Forest Service
  • New Jersey State Forestry Services
  • Richard Lathrop, Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey