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Wildfire exposure to analysis on the national forests in the Pacific Northwest, USA

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We analyzed wildfire exposure for key social and ecological features on the national forests in Oregon and Washington. The forests contain numerous urban interfaces, old growth forests, recreational sites, and habitat for rare and endangered species. Many of these resources are threatened by wildfire, especially in the east Cascade Mountains fire-prone forests. The study illustrates the application of wildfire simulation for risk assessment where the major threat is from large and rare naturally ignited fires, versus many previous studies that have focused on risk driven by frequent and small fires from anthropogenic ignitions. Wildfire simulation modeling was used to characterize potential wildfire behavior in terms of annual burn probability and flame length. Spatial data on selected social and ecological features were obtained from Forest Service GIS databases and elsewhere. The potential wildfire behavior was then summarized for each spatial location of each resource. The analysis suggested strong spatial variation in both burn probability and conditional flame length for many of the features examined, including biodiversity, urban interfaces, and infrastructure. We propose that the spatial patterns in modeled wildfire behavior could be used to improve existing prioritization of fuel management and wildfire preparedness activities within the Pacific Northwest region.

A.A. Ager; M. Buonopane; A. Reger; M.A. Finney

Ager AA, Buonopane M, Reger A, Finney MA. Wildfire exposure to analysis on the national forests in the Pacific Northwest, USA. Society for Risk Analysis. 2012 :21.

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