Effects of slope, vegetation, and ground roughness on firefighter escape route mapping

View brief.

The study's key findings: 

  • The use of airborne LiDAR in conjunction with our experimentally-derived understanding of the effects of wildland landscape conditions on travel efficiency stands to greatly improve the efficiency, consistency, and accuracy with which wildland firefighter escape routes can be designated on the ground
  • Three landscape conditions were found to have significant, negative effects on travel rates, including terrain slope, low-lying vegetation density, and the roughness of the ground surface, all of which can be mapped at a high level of spatial precision using airborne lidar
  • Vegetation density between 0.15 m and 2.75 m in height above the ground was found to be the strongest predictor of travel impedance, with dense juniper and sagebrush vegetation reducing travel rates by 23% on average as compared to a non-vegetated area