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Assessing transboundary wildfire exposure in the southwestern United States

Posted date: October 05, 2018
Publication Year: 
2018
Authors: Ager, Alan; Palaiologou, Palaiologos; Evers, Cody R.; Day, Michelle A.; Barros, Ana M. G.
Publication Series: 
Scientific Journal (JRNL)
Source: Risk Analysis. doi: 10.1111/risa.12999.

Abstract

We assessed transboundary wildfire exposure among federal, state, and private lands and 447 communities in the state of Arizona, southwestern United States. The study quantified the relative magnitude of transboundary (incoming, outgoing) versus nontransboundary (i.e., self-burning) wildfire exposure based on land tenure or community of the simulated ignition and the resulting fire perimeter. We developed and described several new metrics to quantify and map transboundary exposure. We found that incoming transboundary fire accounted for 37% of the total area burned on large parcels of federal and state lands, whereas 63% of the area burned was burned by ignitions within the parcel. However, substantial parcel to parcel variation was observed for all land tenures for all metrics. We found that incoming transboundary fire accounted for 66% of the total area burned within communities versus 34% of the area burned by self-burning ignitions. Of the total area burned within communities, private lands contributed the largest proportion (36.7%), followed by national forests (19.5%), and state lands (15.4%). On average seven land tenures contributed wildfire to individual communities. Annual wildfire exposure to structures was highest for wildfires ignited on state and national forest land, followed by tribal, private, and BLM. We mapped community firesheds, that is, the area where ignitions can spawn fires that can burn into communities, and estimated that they covered 7.7 million ha, or 26% of the state of Arizona. Our methods address gaps in existing wildfire risk assessments, and their implementation can help reduce fragmentation in governance systems and inefficiencies in risk planning.

Citation

Ager, Alan A.; Palaiologou, Palaiologos; Evers, Cody R.; Day, Michelle A.; Barros, Ana M. G. 2018. Assessing transboundary wildfire exposure in the southwestern United States. Risk Analysis. doi: 10.1111/risa.12999.