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Wildfire Risk to Communities

Date: September 11, 2020

Wildfire Risk to Communities provides interactive maps, charts, and resources to help communities across the United States understand, explore, and reduce wildfire risk.


In the 2018 Consolidated Appropriations Act (H.R. 1625, Section 210), Congress directed the Forest Service to produce a nationwide map that could inform communities about wildfire risk, help them understand their risk profile, and guide them toward steps to reduce their risk. Wildfire Risk to Communities is the Forest Service response to that direction.

A screenshot of Wildfire Risk to Communities showing risk to homes in Evergreen, CO. Populated areas in Evergreen have, on average, a greater risk than 98% of expanded community areas in the United States.
This map integrates wildfire likelihood and intensity with potential wildfire consequences to homes. For everywhere on the landscape it asks, “If a home were here, what would be the risk from wildfire?”
As wildfires increase in frequency and severity across the country, Wildfire Risk to Communities is designed to inform the public about wildfire risk and to connect communities with resources to mitigate risk. It includes interactive maps and charts of risk to homes, wildfire exposure types, and wildfire likelihood. This information can help community leaders such as elected officials, community planners, and fire managers understand how risk varies across a state, region, or county and prioritize actions to mitigate risk.

Many of the datasets powering the website were developed by RMRS, in collaboration with private partners. Nationwide modeling data output from the large fire simulation system, FSim, provided critical information on the possible occurrence and intensities of wildfire. This wildfire modeling data was then overlaid on U.S. Census data, which were used to define community locations.

In April 2021, Wildfire Risk to Communities was updated to include additional features. Expanded areas show risk in populated areas outside official community boundaries. Community risk can now be compared to other communities in the county, state, or nation. Users can also download GIS data layers about wildfire, housing and population and search dozens of partner programs to find solutions to reduce wildfire risk. 

Wildfire Risk to Communities is designed so that anyone can access the data. No technical or mapping skills are required, making the website useful for a diverse set of users. Wildfire Risk to Communities is best used for considering risk across a community rather than at the neighborhood or individual home scale.

Key Findings

  • RMRS datasets and simulations provided the analytical foundation for the new Wildfire Risk to Communities website, which enables citizens and community leaders to assess the wildfire risk of their area and find resources to reduce the risk.
  • By providing consistent nationwide coverage of wildfire risk information, the website makes it possible to compare wildfire risk across a state, region, or county, and to prioritize where mitigation work is most needed.
  • The maps and data delivered by this project specifically account for the potential for homes in the Wildland-Urban Interface to be exposed to wildfire by embers and other indirect ignition sources.

Links

Wildfire Risk to Communities

Wildfire Risk to Communities Forest Service Web Page

Wildfire Risk to Communities: Spatial datasets of landscape-wide wildfire risk components for the United States

Wildfire Risk to Communities: Spatial datasets of wildfire risk for populated areas in the United States



Principal Investigators: 
Forest Service Partners: 
Frank Fay, WO FAM, Project co-lead
Jim Menakis, WO FAM, Project co-lead
Rick Stratton, WO FAM
Karen Short, RMRS
Eva Karau, RMRS
External Partners: 
Pyrologix LLC (Joe Scott, Julie Gilbertson-Day, Chris Moran, Kevin Vogler, April Brough)
Headwaters Economics (Kelly Pohl, Kimi Barrett, Patty Hernandez-Gude, Scott Story, Ray Rasker)