Monday, September 11, 2017

Network Analysis of Wildfire Transmission and Implications for Risk Governance

A recent study by Alan Agar, Cody Evers, Michelle Day, Haiganoush Preisler, Ana Barros and Max Nielsen-Pincus 
looks at wildfire transmission from an "all lands, cross boundary" perspective. The study was motivated by the current federal wildfire management policy that emphasizes an "all lands" approach to management as a means to build fire resilient landscapes and fire adapted communities, and improve the safety and effectiveness of wildland fire response.  (Sounds like...?) 

The study offers quantitative methods to assess cross-boundary wildfire exposure on landscapes of varied ownerships, wildland fuels and community boundaries to advance the Cohesive Wildland Fire Strategy goals above into practical application. The findings have implications for Community Wildfire Protection Planning (CWPPs) as well as other land and fire management planning.

Current risk assessment protocols do not identify cross-tenure and cross-tenure fire transmission that underlie the "all lands" planning objectives. Agar et al. also state that mapping fire risk alone is insufficient to inform mitigation strategies that must balance goals for improving fire resiliency in fire dependent forests versus protecting assets from fire. 

The area in community firesheds (i.e. wildlands that transmit fire to communities) covered more than 40% of the study area. Their fireshed mapping defined the scale of risk to communities, and provided a determination of risk exposure that is not considered in current CWPP guidelines where boundaries are based on ownership and administrative borders rather than the spatial and functional scale of wildfire risk.

These resulting scale mismatches between CWPP boundaries and the scale of risk can contribute to ineffective outcomes. In general, communities with high wildfire connectivity and large firesheds have a higher potential for scale mismatches in community planning stemming from poor perception of risk transmission. Scale mismatches manifest in a lack of coordination between local communities and surrounding landowners where governance institutions fail to recognize transmitted risk from neighboring land ownerships.

The study also provides a multi-scale characterization of wildfire networks within a large, mixed tenure and fire prone landscape, and illustrates the connectivity of risk between communities and the surrounding wildlands. They use the findings to discuss how scale mismatches in local wildfire governance result from disconnected planning systems and disparate fire management objectives among the large landowners (federal, state, private) and local communities. 

Local and regional risk planning processes can adopt these concepts and methods to better define and map the scale of wildfire risk from large fire events and incorporate wildfire network and connectivity concepts into risk assessments.
Incorporating this wildfire network analyses at the federal, state and community scales can help eliminate functional and scale mismatches in wildfire risk management that reduce the effectiveness of existing risk governance.  

Read the full report here

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