Skip to Main Content
U.S. Forest Service
Caring for the land and serving people

United States Department of Agriculture

Home > Search > Publication Information

  1. Share via EmailShare on FacebookShare on LinkedInShare on Twitter
    Dislike this pubLike this pub


    Attaining fire-adapted human communities has become a key focus of collaborative planning on landscapes across the western United States and elsewhere. The coupling of fire simulation with GIS has expanded the analytical base to support such planning efforts, particularly through the "fireside" concept that identifies areas where wildfires could ignite and reach a human community. Previous research has identified mismatches in scale between localized community wildfire planning and the broader fireshed considering patterns of wildfire activity across landscapes. Here we expand upon this work by investigating the degree to which alternative geospatial characterizations of human communities could influence assessment of community exposure and characterization of the fireshed. We use three methods of mapping human communities (point, raster, and polygon) and develop three fireshed metrics (size, number of fires reaching houses, and number of houses exposed), and apply this analytical framework on a 2.3 million ha case study landscape encompassing the Sierra National Forest in California, USA. We simulated fire occurrence and growth using FSim for 10,000 iterations (fire seasons) at 180-m resolution. The simulation resulted in 3.9 large fires per million ha per year, with a mean size of 3432 ha. Results exhibit similarities and differences in how exposure is quantified, specifically indicating that polygons representing recognized community boundaries led to the lowest exposure levels. These results highlight how choice of the mapping approach could lead to misestimating the scope of the problem or targeting mitigation efforts in the wrong areas, and underscore the importance of clarity and spatial fidelity in geospatial data representing communities at risk.

    Publication Notes

    • You may send email to to request a hard copy of this publication.
    • (Please specify exactly which publication you are requesting and your mailing address.)
    • We recommend that you also print this page and attach it to the printout of the article, to retain the full citation information.
    • This article was written and prepared by U.S. Government employees on official time, and is therefore in the public domain.


    Scott, Joe H.; Thompson, Matthew P.; Gilbertson-Day, Julie W. 2015. Exploring how alternative mapping approaches influence fireshed assessment and human community exposure to wildfire. GeoJournal. 82: 201. doi: 10.1007/s10708-015-9679-6.


    Google Scholar


    wildland-urban interface, fire-adapted community, wildfire risk, fireshed

    Related Search

    XML: View XML
Show More
Show Fewer
Jump to Top of Page