Wildland Urban Interface
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We have been studying the WUI in the U.S. for more than 10 years, looking at where WUI areas were once located, where they are now, and where we expect them to be in the coming decades. Our new data set provides the first high-resolution data on WUI change from 1990 to 2010, revealing how housing growth and wildland vegetation have combined over time. We developed new algorithms that converted the decennial Census standalone data into a consistent dataset on housing growth across the conterminous U.S.
This study found evidence of a gap between risk perceptions of WUI residents and wildfire professionals. On average, residents underestimated the overall risk of their property. One third of the study participants reported having a neighbor that they think is increasing their risk. Perceived likelihood of fire reaching the property and causing damages was positively correlated with perceiving a neighbor is not taking action. The only consistent predictor of defensible space was the level of defensible space on neighboring properties. Our results suggest that programs that are effective in getting single homeowners to mitigate risk may have benefits that spillover to neighboring properties, and risk neutral/tolerant individuals lived on parcels that were rated by the professional as having less defensible space and more ignitable structure materials.
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Becoming a fire-adapted community that can live with wildfire is envisioned as a continuous, iterative process of adaptation. Miranda Mockrin, a research scientist with the Forest Service combined national and case study research to examine how experience with wildfire alters the built environment and community- and government-level wildfire mitigation, planning, and regulations. Research suggests that adaptation to wildfire through WUI regulations depends on multiple factors, including past experience with fire and the geographic extent and scale of the fire event relative to the local community and its government. While communities did not often pursue changes in WUI regulations, experience with wildfire was frequently cited as the impetus for other adaptive responses, such as improving emergency response or fire suppression, and expanding education and interaction with homeowners, such as Firewise programs or government support for fuel mitigation on private lands.
In 2004, the Communities Committee of the Seventh American Forest Congress, Society of American Foresters, National Association of Counties, and the National Association of State Foresters sponsored and developed a handbook entitled Preparing a Community Wildfire Protection Plan. (Communities Committee of the Seventh American Forest Congress; Society of American Foresters; National Association of Counties; National Association of State Foresters, 2004) This guide is intended to supplement that handbook, with special considerations for local fire service leaders in communities identified as at-risk of wildfire. While adjacency to public lands (forests, brushlands and grasslands) can impact wildfire risk, there are ways to impact and reduce wildfire risk from within the community as well. This includes a focus on local codes and ordinances, home ignition Zones, defensible space, ignition-resistant construction and design standards, as well as hazardous fuels reduction in parks, common-owned areas, and open spaces within the local jurisdiction.
This paper examines vulnerability in the context of affluence and privilege. It focuses on the 1991 Oakland Hills Firestorm in California, USA to examine long-term lived experiences of the disaster. First, vulnerability is variegated between households within communities, including those in more affluent areas. Second, household vulnerability is collectively altered, and oftentimes reduced, by the broader affluent community within which individual households reside. By paying closer attention to the affluence–vulnerability interface the paper reveals a recursive process, which is significant in the context of building more disaster resilient communities.
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The Community Planning Assistance for Wildfire (CPAW) program provides communities with expertise in land use planning, forestry, risk assessment, and research to identify and reduce local wildfire risks and costs. Learn even more background and access other tools at Headwaters Economics.
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The Sage Grouse Initiative Interactive Web App is a tool to catalyze and improve habitat conservation efforts across the western United States. It presents cutting-edge geospatial data covering 100 million acres, which helps visualize, distribute, and interact with information about the sagebrush-steppe ecosystem.
This study proposes using the principles of risk analysis to provide land management agencies, first responders, and affected communities who face the inevitability of wildfires the ability to reduce the potential for loss. Overcoming perceptions of wildland urban interface fire disasters as a wildfire control problem rather than a home ignition problem, determined by home ignition conditions, will reduce home loss.
This study analysed the role of defensible space by mapping and measuring a suite of pre-fire variables for 1000 destroyed and 1000 surviving structures for all fires where homes burned from 2001 to 2010 in San Diego County, CA, USA. Structures were more likely to survive a fire with defensible space immediately adjacent to them. The most effective treatment distance varied between 5 and 20 m (16–58 ft) from the structure, but distances larger than 30 m (100 ft) did not provide additional protection, even for structures located on steep slopes. The most effective actions were reducing woody cover up to 40% immediately adjacent to structures and ensuring that vegetation does not overhang or touch the structure.