Advancing effects analysis for integrated, large-scale wildfire risk assessment

TitleAdvancing effects analysis for integrated, large-scale wildfire risk assessment
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2011
AuthorsThompson, MP, Calkin, D, Gilbertson-Day, J, Ager, AA
JournalEnvironmental Monitoring and Assessment
Start Page217
Keywordseffects analysis, expert system, risk assessment and analysis, technical reports and journal articles, uncertainty, wildfire risk

In this article, we describe the design and development of a quantitative, geospatial risk assessment tool intended to facilitate monitoring trends in wildfire risk over time and to provide information useful in prioritizing fuels treatments and mitigation measures. The research effort is designed to develop, from a strategic view, a first approximation of how both fire likelihood and intensity influence risk to social, economic, and ecological values at regional and national scales. Three main components are required to generate wildfire risk outputs: (1) burn probability maps generated from wildfire simulations, (2) spatially identified highly valued resources (HVRs), and (3) response functions that describe the effects of fire (beneficial or detrimental) on the HVR. Analyzing fire effects has to date presented a major challenge to integrated risk assessments, due to a limited understanding of the type and magnitude of changes wrought by wildfire to ecological and other nonmarket values. This work advances wildfire effects analysis, recognizing knowledge uncertainty and appropriately managing it through the use of an expert systems approach. Specifically, this work entailed consultation with 10 fire and fuels program management officials from federal agencies with fire manage ment responsibilities in order to define quantitative resource response relationships as a function of fire intensity. Here, we demonstrate a proof-of-concept application of the wildland fire risk assessment tool, using the state of Oregon as a case study.