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Evaluating wildland fire danger and prioritizing vegetation and fuels treatments

Posted date: June 29, 2009
Publication Year: 
Authors: Hessburg, Paul F.; Reynolds, Keith M.; Keane II, Robert E.; James, Kevin M.; Salter, R. Brion
Publication Series: 
Scientific Journal (JRNL)
Source: Forest Ecology and Management. 247: 1-17


We present a decision-support application that evaluates danger of severe wildland fire and prioritizes subwatersheds for vegetation and fuels treatment. We demonstrate the use of the system with an example from the Rocky Mountain region in Utah; a planning area of 4.8 million ha encompassing 575 subwatersheds. In a logic model, we evaluate fire danger as a function of three primary topics: fire hazard, fire behavior, and ignition risk. Each primary topic has secondary topics under which data are evaluated. The logic model shows the state of each evaluated watershed with respect to fire danger. In a decision model, we place summarized fire danger conditions of each watershed in the context of the amount of associated wildland-urban interface (WUI). The logic and decision models are executed in EMDS, a decision-support system that operates in ArcGIS. We show that a decision criterion such as relationship to WUI can significantly influence the outcome of a decision to determine treatment priorities. For example, we show that subwatersheds that were in the relatively poor condition with respect to fire hazard, behavior, and ignition risk may not be the best candidates for treatment. Additional logistical factors such as proximity to population centers, presence of endangered species, slope steepness, and road access all might be taken into account in selection of specific watersheds within a management area for treatment. Thus, the ecological status of each ecosystem can be placed in one or more social values contexts to further inform decisionmaking. The application can be readily expanded to support strategic planning at national and regional scales, and tactical planning at local scales.


Hessburg, Paul F.; Reynolds, Keith M.; Keane, Robert E.; James, Kevin M.; Salter, R. Brion 2008. Evaluating wildland fire danger and prioritizing vegetation and fuels treatments. Forest Ecology and Management. 247: 1-17