District and Forest Fire staff recently met with local cooperators and resource specialists to develop maps of potential control lines that they could use while managing a fire. Maps of control lines and potential operational delineations (PODs) are being developed for the entire Forest with the assistance of researchers from USFS Rocky Mountain Research Station and the Colorado Forest Restoration Institute. Maps will serve as pre fire planning tools to help local managers identify values at risk within PODs and rank landscape features for their potential to aid in fire management operations. In small PODs with high values at risk such as WUI communities, fires can be aggressively attacked using landscape features with the highest likelihood of success. In remote or poorly accessible wilderness PODs fires can be managed strategically, allowed to burn under favorable conditions, and controlled using burn outs from POD boundaries when conditions changed. This mapping effort also helps prioritize areas for mechanical treatment which can be located along roads and other defensive features to serve the dual purpose of helping strengthen potential control lines and POD boundaries.
Going through this mapping and analysis process collaboratively with staff and local cooperators before the fire happens takes pressure off firefighters, incident commanders, and agency staff during incidents. When a fire starts, ignition coordinates can be overlaid on POD maps, allowing decision makers to quickly identify values at risk and strategies for responding to and managing fires under a range of conditions.
What are the current and desired conditions for that POD, what effect would fire have on highly valued resources and assets, what are the potential ecological benefits, fire resource needs, and who are the effected stakeholders.
Evaluating landscape risks and benefits and identifying control lines and with the highest likelihood of success and minimal firefighter exposure ahead of time allows firefighters on scene to concentrate on incident strategies and tactics while knowing they have the support of managers, agency administrators, and the communities they work in. In short, this effort facilitates smart and transparent decision making leading to effective response, informing when good fires can burn under the right conditions, and informing aggressive strategies when fires need to be suppressed.
GIS data and maps displaying operationally-relevant fire management units, potential fire control locations, suppression difficulty, past fuel treatments and fires, and locations of structures. The Forest will use this data to support fire decisions as well as to integrate fire planning with vegetation and fuels management planning.