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Evaluating wildland fire danger and prioritizing vegetation and fuels treatments

Author(s): Paul F. Hessburg, Keith M. Reynolds, Robert E. Keane, Kevin M. James, R. Brion Salter
Year Published: 2010

We present a prototype decision support system for evaluating wild-land fire danger and prioritizing subwatersheds for vegetation and fuels treatment. We demonstrate the use of the system with an example from the Rocky Mountain region in the State of Utah, which represents a planning area of about 4.8 million ha and encompasses 575 complete subwatersheds. In a logic model, we evaluate fire danger as a function of three primary topics: fire hazard, fire behavior, and ignition risk. Each primary topic has secondary topics under which data are evaluated. The logic model shows the state of each evaluated landscape with respect to fire danger. In a decision model, we place summarized fire danger conditions of each evaluated landscape in the context of the amount of associated wild-land-urban interface (WUI). The logic and decision models are executed in EMDS, a decision-support system that operates in ArcGIS. We show that a decision criterion such as relationship to WUI can significantly influence the outcome of a decision to determine treatment priorities. For example, we show that subwatersheds that were in relatively poor condition with respect to fire hazard, behavior, and ignition risk may not be the best candidates for treatment. Additional strategic or logistical factors such as proximity to population centers, presence of endangered species, slope steepness, and road access all might be taken into account in selection of specific watersheds within a management area for treatment. Thus, the ecological status of each ecosystem can be placed in one or more social and human values contexts to further inform decisionmaking. The application introduced here can be readily expanded to support strategic planning at national and regional scales and tactical planning at local scales.

Citation: Hessburg, Paul F.; Reynolds, Keith M.; Keane, Robert E.; James, Kevin M.; Salter, R. Brion. 2010. Evaluating wildland fire danger and prioritizing vegetation and fuels treatments. In: Pye, John M.; Rauscher, H. Michael; Sands, Yasmeen; Lee, Danny C.; Beatty, Jerome S., eds. Advances in threat assessment and their application to forest and rangeland management - Volume 2. Gen. Tech. Rep. PNW-GTR-802. Portland, OR: USDA Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station and Southern Research Station. p. 329-352.
Topic(s): Fuel Treatments & Prescriptions
Ecosystem(s): None
Document Type: Technical Report or White Paper
NRFSN number: 11465
FRAMES RCS number: 11080
Record updated: Feb 14, 2018