Wildland Urban Interface

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Interactional approach to adaptive capacity: Researching adaptation in socially diverse, wildfire prone communities

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This article outlines an approach for understanding the ways that local social context influences differential community adaptation to wildfire risk. I explain how my approach drew from Wilkinson’s interactional theory of community during various stages of its evolution and describe a series of advancements developed while extending the theory to promote collective action for wildfire. Extensions of Wilkinson’s work include organizing a range of adaptive capacity characteristics that help document differential community capacity for wildfire adaptation, introduction of “community archetypes” that reflect patterns of key adaptive capacity characteristics across cases, and development of fire adaptation “pathways” – combinations of policies, actions, and programs tailored to a range of community conditions.

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Contrasting the efficiency of landscape versus community protection fuel treatment strategies to reduce wildfire exposure and risk

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We examined the financial efficiency and effectiveness of landscape versus community protection fuel treatments to reduce structure exposure and loss to wildfire on a large fire-prone area of central Idaho. The study area contained 63,707 structures distributed in 20 rural communities and resorts, encompassing 13,804 km2. We used simulation modeling to estimate expected structure loss based on burn probability and characteristics of the home ignition zone. We then designed three fuel management strategies that targeted treatments to: 1) the surrounding areas predicted to be the source of exposure to communities from large fires, 2) the home ignition zone, and 3) a combination of the landscape and home ignition zone. We evaluated each treatment scenario in terms of exposure and expected structure loss compared to a no-treatment scenario. The potential revenue from wood products was estimated for each scenario to assess the cost-efficiency. We found that the combined landscape and home ignition zone treatment scenario which treated 5.7% of the study area resulted in the highest overall reduction in predicted exposure (47.5%, 100 structures yr- 1) and predicted loss (69.1%, 57 structures yr- 1). Home ignition zone treatments provided the best predicted economic and per area treated performance where exposure and loss were reduced by one structure by treating 89 and 111 ha per year, respectively, with an annual cost of $33,645 and $73,672. Revenue from thinning was the highest for landscape fuel treatments and covered 16% of the required investment. This work highlighted economic and risk tradeoffs associated with alternative fuel treatment strategies to protect developed areas from large wildland fires.

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Expanded framework for wildland-urban interfaces and their management

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Wildland–urban interfaces (WUIs), the juxtaposition of highly and minimally developed lands, are an increasingly prominent feature on Earth. WUIs are hotspots of environmental and ecological change that are often priority areas for planning and management. A better understanding of WUI dynamics and their role in the coupling between cities and surrounding wildlands is needed to reduce the risk of environmental hazards, ensure the continued provisioning of ecosystem services, and conserve threatened biodiversity. To fill this need, we propose an expanded framework for WUIs that not only conceptualizes these interfaces as emergent and functional components of socioecological processes but also extends them vertically from the bedrock to the top of the vegetation and horizontally across heterogeneous landscapes. This framework encourages management that reconciles pervasive trade-offs between development and resulting multiple environmental impacts. Focusing on southern California as a case study, we use the framework to facilitate integration across disciplines and between scientists and managers.

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Actionable social science can guide community level wildfire solutions. An illustration from North Central Washington, US

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In this study we illustrate the value of social data compiled at the community scale to guide a local wildfire mitigation and education effort. The four contiguous fire-prone study communities in North Central Washington, US, fall within the same jurisdictional fire service boundary and within one US census block group. Across the four communities, similar attitudes toward wildfire were observed. However, significant differences were found on the measures critical to tailoring wildfire preparation and mitigation programs to the local context such as risk mitigation behaviors, reported barriers to mitigation, and communication preferences across the four communities.

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Comparing risk-based fuel treatment prioritization with alternative strategies for enhancing protection and resource management objectives

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In general, we find that treating near housing units can provide the greatest level of protection relative to treating more remote wildlands to reduce transmission potential. Treating on federal lands to reduce federal transmission was highly effective at reducing exposure from federal fires and at expanding opportunities for beneficial fire but contributed comparatively little to reducing housing exposure from all fires. We find that treatment extents as low as 2.5–5% can yield significant benefits with spatially optimized strategies, whereas the random strategy did not perform comparably until reaching a much larger treatment extent. Increasing risk tolerance for housing exposure expanded the area suitable for managed fire, while decreasing risk tolerance for beneficial fire opportunity and flame length probability shrunk the area suitable for managed fire.

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Firetopia Land Use Toolbox

Access Firetopia.

Land use planning tool from Headwaters Economics. Includes information on:

  • Community planning
  • Land development
  • Building and fire codes
  • Fuels treatment
  • Funding and engagement
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Wildfire Resilient Structures (WiReS) Conference and Tradeshow

Conference website.

The Wildfire Resilient Structures (WiReS) conference addresses the WUI fire risk problems inherent to the built environment to support resilient and equitable communities. With a shared goal of implementation through education, the WiReS conference will make local, regional, and state impact through the presentation and promotion of applied science, knowledge, and technology advancements to Decision Makers.

Location: Mission Valley, San Diego, California
Venue & Hotel Name: Town and Country Resort

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Regulating Colorado’s WUI

Webinar recording.

This webinar features insights and lessons from three communities in Colorado —the City of Colorado Springs, Eagle County, and Ouray County— and their successful approaches to local adoption and enforcement of wildfire regulations. This webinar is based on a new report from the Community Wildfire Planning Center, Regulating the Wildland-Urban Interface in Colorado.

WUI Resource Collections

Wildland Urban Interface- Resource Collections

Check out our collection of resources addressing the many factors associated with and impacting fuels, fire, and life in the wildland urban interface (WUI).

Development in the WUI

Social and Behavioral Aspects of the WUI

Structure Protection in the WUI

WUI Fire Risk

WUI Fuels/Fuel Treatments

WUI Fire Behavior/Fire Response

WUI Economics

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Integrating Potential Operational Delineations (PODs) into community wildfire protection plans

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After they have been delineated, PODs are essentially big boxes on the landscape that illustrate where fire could potentially be contained. Collaborators can then use CWPPs and other planning processes to fill those boxes with a wide variety of local and statewide spatial data about expected fire behavior, homes, infrastructure, and other values at risk to inform where resources should be expended to protect community values. Because PODs delineate where fires are likely to be contained, they can help operationalize CWPPs. Like CWPPs, PODs institutionalize knowledge and can be used to create a variety of maps and spatial data products. However, the real value of PODs and CWPPs comes from the collaborative processes used to create them, the interagency coordination and conversations they facilitate, and their power as communication tools between communities, land  management agencies, and other stakeholders. By incorporating the PODs framework into a new or updated CWPP, a community is able to incorporate the latest science and use an operationally based planning framework that is broadly adopted and supported by federal agencies.

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