Structural damage from wildfires in WUI communities
Destructive wildfires are now a real threat in regions across the country and beyond what was once considered as the fire season, examples of which are the 2016 Gatlinburg Fire in the Southeast and the 2021 Marshall Fire in late December. Existing wildfire risk assessment procedures typically use simulation modeling to quantify the wildfire exposure to wildland-urban interface (WUI) communities, but rely on subjective estimates of the susceptibility of structures to fire in order to quantify risk. Thus, there is a need to better understand and characterize the effectiveness of different mitigation actions related to individual structure features and community layout on the resilience of a WUI community to fire. This presentation discusses findings from the analyses of past wildfire events and introduces a streamlined model to capture fire spread inside WUI communities to quantify structural damage. The proposed model can be used to guide mitigation actions in existing and new communities, and inform preparedness and response strategies by evaluating the likelihood of successful suppression based on the rate of fire spread.