Identifying plausible community wildfire disasters in low-frequency fire regimes

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In this study, we used wildfire simulations and building location data to evaluate community wildfire exposure and identify plausible disasters that are not based on typical mean-based statistical approaches. We compared the location and magnitude of simulated disasters to historical disasters (1984–2020) in order to characterize plausible surprises which could inform future wildfire risk reduction planning. Results indicate that nearly half of communities are vulnerable to a future disaster, that the magnitude of plausible disasters exceeds any recent historical events, and that ignitions on private land are most likely to result in very high community exposure. Our methods, in combination with more typical actuarial characterizations, provide a way to support investment in and communication with communities exposed to low-probability, high-consequence wildfires.

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