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Appendix 2: Risk-based framework and risk case studies. Risk assessment for wildfire in the Western United States

Author(s): David L. Peterson, Jeremy S. Littell
Year Published: 2013

Wildfire is one of the two most significant disturbance agents (the other being insects) in forest ecosystems of the Western United States, and in a warmer climate, will drive changes in forest composition, structure, and function (Dale et al. 2001, McKenzie et al. 2004). Although wildfire is highly stochastic in space and time, sufficient data exist to establish clear relationships between some fire characteristics and some climatic parameters. An assessment of wildfire risk in response to climate change requires brief definitions of the terms "fire hazard" and "fire risk," which are often confused in the scientific literature and other applications (Hardy 2005). Fire hazard is the potential for the structure, condition, and arrangement of a fuelbed to affect its flammability and energy release. Fire risk is the probability that a fire will ignite, spread, and potentially affect one or more resources valued by people. The most common means of expressing wildfire risk are (1) frequency, (2) a combination of intensity (energy release) and severity (effects on forests, structures, and other values), and (3) area burned.

Citation: Peterson, David L.; Littell, Jeremy S. 2013. Appendix 2: Risk-based framework and risk case studies. Risk assessment for wildfire in the Western United States. In: Vose, James M.; Peterson, David L.; Patel-Weynand, Toral, eds. Effects of climatic variability and change on forest ecosystems: a comprehensive science synthesis for the U.S. forest sector. Gen. Tech. Rep. PNW-GTR-870. Portland, OR: USDA Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station. p. 249-252.
Topic(s): Risk, Risk assessment
Ecosystem(s): Subalpine wet spruce-fir forest, Subalpine dry spruce-fir forest, Montane wet mixed-conifer forest, Montane dry mixed-conifer forest, Ponderosa pine woodland/savanna
Document Type: Technical Report or White Paper
NRFSN number: 11903
FRAMES RCS number: 13820
Record updated: Feb 20, 2019