Research Foundations of Analytics Supporting the Wildfire Crisis Strategy

Research Foundations of Analytics Supporting the Wildfire Crisis Strategy

Wildfire analytics now used in the wildfire crisis strategy had beginnings in fire simulation research in the early 1990s. Data and models developed during this period enabled spatial analyses of fire growth and behavior and allowed examination of effectiveness of fuel treatment and land management activities in changing wildfire impacts. With the limited computing capacity of the day, effects of landscape fuel treatments were difficult to study, but the basic principles were established showing the importance of fire itself as the most effective fuel treatment. Research also showed how different spatial patterns of treatments affected the growth and behavior of fires – and that there were efficient and inefficient patterns. More recent developments of fire simulation software encompassed the wide range of weather and ignition variables, resulting in the program FSim that we now rely on to quantify risk. One of the modeling products derived at the national level and used to inform the National Cohesive Wildland Fire Management Strategy in 2011 indicated a need to treat 3-5 times more land area than we were burning in wildfires. Continual refinements and improvements in landscape fire simulations have resulted in national risk products, including the Wildfire Risk to Communities assessment. These products provide a baseline for quantifying wildfire risk to a wide variety of resources and assets, and are then used for comparing alternative landscape management strategies to mitigate or reduce those risks.