New tool will help estimate wildfire risk

Researchers this week announced a new tool that can take some of the guesswork and resource limitations out of the equation when it comes to estimating wildfire risk.

Investigators with the National Centers for Environmental Information and the NASA DEVELOP National Program collaborated with a series of groups to create the tool that automatically processes satellite and weather station information. The Fire Risk Estimation tool — FIRE Tool for short — takes into consideration temperature, precipitation, relative humidity and wind observations and produces a single measurement of fire potential.

The new tool will be able to process data in almost real-time, determine when indicator thresholds are met or exceeded, and weigh how much each indicator would influence risk. From there, fire managers will be better able to more intently mobilize resources to high-risk areas — a tactic that until now was severely limited due to gaps in available information and computation.

“To create the FIRE tool, the team began with a list of indicators used to assess wildfire risk and the thresholds for each that would indicate higher risk,” researchers wrote in an online piece posted to NCEI. “Provided by fire managers in South Dakota, these initial indicators and thresholds were based on meteorological conditions that accompanied several large, complex wildfires in the past decade.”

A sample visualization of wildfire risk, via the National Centers for Environmental Information.
A sample visualization of wildfire risk, via the National Centers for Environmental Information.

Once the overall risk potential is calculated, information is plotted on a color-coded map spanning five categories — low to high.

From the NCEI report:

“This gives fire managers an overall view of risk in different locations, helping them quickly decide when and where to allocate their resources.”

The FIRE Tool was initially built for the Great Plains. However, experts say it can be modified to landscapes and geographical regions across the country.

Researchers worked with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and the South Dakota State Fire Meteorologist to create the tool.

 

Author: Jason Pohl

In addition to writing for Wildfire Today, Jason Pohl reports on law enforcement and public safety issues for the Fort Collins Coloradoan newspaper.

1 thought on “New tool will help estimate wildfire risk”

  1. Not a fan. While it may prove to be another tool, how many tools does one need? And do tools themselves eliminate fire risk? Are cross-jurisdictional Agreements in-place that allow for transfer of forces on short notice before a fire begins? Has sufficient funding been provided to staff as required? Will political egos allow some to “win” while others “lose”? When will we ever (finally?) switch from a suppression to a fuel modification/reduction strategy? Do we need more analysts heads-down over data and imagery, or fire/land managers, leaders, and oractioners heads-up out on the ground?

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