The Construction of Probabilistic Wildfire Risk Estimates for Individual Real Estate Parcels for the Contiguous United States

TitleThe Construction of Probabilistic Wildfire Risk Estimates for Individual Real Estate Parcels for the Contiguous United States
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2022
AuthorsKearns, EJ, Saah, D, Levine, CR, Lautenberger, C, Doherty, OM, Porter, JR, Amodeo, M, Rudeen, C, Woodward, KD, Johnson, GW, Markert, K, Shu, E, Freeman, N, Bauer, M, Lai, K, Hsieh, H, Wilson, B, McClenny, B, McMahon, A, Chishtie, F
Date Published08/2022
Keywordsclimate, fire model, fuels, ignition, property-level, technical reports and journal articles

The methodology used by the First Street Foundation Wildfire Model (FSF-WFM) to compute estimates of the 30-year, climate-adjusted aggregate wildfire hazard for the contiguous United States at 30 m horizontal resolution is presented. The FSF-WFM integrates several existing methods from the wildfire science community and implements computationally efficient and scalable modeling techniques to allow for new high-resolution, CONUS-wide hazard generation. Burn probability, flame length, and ember spread for the years 2022 and 2052 are computed from two ten-year representative Monte Carlo simulations of wildfire behavior, utilizing augmented LANDFIRE fuel estimates updated with all the available disturbance information. FSF-WFM utilizes ELMFIRE, an open-source, Rothermel-based wildfire behavior model, and multiple US Federal Government open data sources to drive the simulations. LANDFIRE non-burnable fuel classes within the wildland–urban interface (WUI) are replaced with fuel estimates from machine-learning models, trained on data from historical fires, to allow the propagation of wildfire through the WUI in the model. Historical wildfire ignition locations and NOAA’s hourly time series of surface weather at 2.5 km resolution are used to drive ELMFIRE to produce wildfire hazards representative of the 2022 and 2052 conditions at 30 m resolution, with the future weather conditions scaled to the IPCC CMIP5 RCP4.5 model ensemble predictions. Winds and vegetation were held constant between the 2022 and 2052 simulations, and climate change’s impacts on the future fuel conditions are the main contributors to the changes observed in the 2052 results. Non-zero wildfire exposure is estimated for 71.8 million out of 140 million properties across CONUS. Climate change impacts add another 11% properties to this non-zero exposure class over the next 30 years, with much of this change observed in the forested areas east of the Mississippi River. “Major” aggregate wildfire exposure of greater than 6% over the 30-year analysis period from 2022 to 2052 is estimated for 10.2 million properties. The FSF-WFM represents a notable contribution to the ability to produce property-specific, climate-adjusted wildfire risk assessments in the US.