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Probabilistic assessment of wildfire hazard and municipal watershed exposure

Author(s): Joe H. Scott, Don Helmbrecht, Matthew P. Thompson, David E. Calkin, Kate Marcille
Year Published: 2012

The occurrence of wildfires within municipal watersheds can result in significant impacts to water quality and ultimately human health and safety. In this paper, we illustrate the application of geospatial analysis and burn probability modeling to assess the exposure of municipal watersheds to wildfire. Our assessment of wildfire exposure consists of two primary components: (1) wildfire hazard, which we characterize with burn probability, fireline intensity, and a composite index, and (2) geospatial intersection of watershed polygons with spatially resolved wildfire hazard metrics. This effort enhances investigation into spatial patterns of fire occurrence and behavior and enables quantitative comparisons of exposure across watersheds on the basis of a novel, integrated measure of wildfire hazard. As a case study, we consider the municipal watersheds located on the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest (BDNF) in Montana, United States. We present simulation results to highlight exposure across watersheds and generally demonstrate vast differences in fire likelihood, fire behavior, and expected area burned among the analyzed municipal watersheds. We describe how this information can be incorporated into risk-based strategic fuels management planning and across the broader wildfire management spectrum. To conclude, we discuss strengths and limitations of our approach and offer potential future expansions.

Citation: Scott, Joe; Helmbrecht, Don; Thompson, Matthew P.; Calkin, David E.; Marcille, Kate. 2012. Probabilistic assessment of wildfire hazard and municipal watershed exposure. Natural Hazards. 64(1): 707-728
Topic(s): Fire Effects, Ecological - Second Order, Water, Risk, Risk assessment, Strategic Risk
Ecosystem(s): None
Document Type: Book or Chapter or Journal Article
NRFSN number: 12737
FRAMES RCS number: 13490
Record updated: Feb 20, 2019