Effective wildfire management in the wildland–urban interface (WUI) depends on timely data on forest fuel loading to inform management decisions. Mobile personal communication devices, such as smartphones, present new opportunities to collect data in the WUI, using sensors within the device – such as the camera, global positioning system (GPS), accelerometer, compass, data storage and networked data transfer. In addition to providing a tool for forest professionals, smartphones can also facilitate engaging other members of the community in forest management as they are now available to a growing proportion of the general population. Approaches where the public participates in the data-collection process (inspired by citizen science) may be beneficial for fire hazard issues. This research note demonstrates a smartphone application for measuring forest fuel loading in the WUI by forestry professionals and non-professionals, and evaluates the quality of the collected data. Smartphones and their associated applications may provide new tools for collecting forest structural data in the WUI, but forest managers need to ensure that measurement protocols provide the required precision for analysis and enforce the logical consistency of observations made by a diverse set of data collectors, and that sufficient training is provided. If these recommendations are followed, we conclude that data acquired by volunteers in collaborative projects through smartphone applications can be of acceptable quality to help inform forest management decisions.
Ferster CJ, Coops NC. Assessing the quality of forest fuel loading data collected using public participation methods and smartphones. International Journal of Wildland Fire. 2014 ;23.