Title: A comparison of landscape fuel treatment strategies to mitigate wildland fire risk in the urban interface and preserve old forest structure
Author: Ager, Alan; Vaillant, Nicole
Source: Forest Ecology and Management. 259: 1556-1570
Description: We simulated fuel reduction treatments on a 16,000-ha study area in Oregon, US, to examine tradeoffs between placing fuel treatments near residential structures within an urban interface, versus treating stands in the adjacent wildlands to meet forest health and ecological restoration goals. The treatment strategies were evaluated by simulating 10,000 wildfires with random ignition locations and calculating burn probabilities by 0.5-m flame length categories for each 30- x 3-m pixel in the study area. The burn conditions for the wildfires were chosen to replicate severe fire events based on 97th percentile historic weather conditions. The burn probabilities were used to calculate wildfire risk profiles for each of the 170 residential structures within the urban interface, and to estimate the expected (probabilistic) wildfire mortality of large trees (>53.3 cm) that are a key indicator of stand restoration objectives. Expected wildfire mortality for large trees was calculated by building flame length mortality functions using the Forest Vegetation Simulator, and subsequently applying these functions to the burn probability outputs. Results suggested that treatments on a relatively minor percentage of the landscape (10%) resulted in a roughly 70% reduction in the expected wildfire loss of large trees for the restoration scenario. Treating stands near residential structures resulted in a higher expected loss of large trees, but relatively lower burn probability and flame length within structure buffers. Substantial reduction in burn probability and flame length around structures was also observed in the restoration scenario where fuel treatments were located 5 to 10 km distant. These findings quantify offsite fuel treatment effects that are not analyzed in previous landscape fuel management studies. The study highlights tradeoffs between ecological management objectives on wildlands and the protection of residential structures in the urban interface. We also advance the application of quantitative risk analysis to the problem of wildfire threat assessment.
Keywords: wildfire risk, wildland-urban interface, burn probability, wildfire simulation models
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Ager, Alan; Vaillant, Nicole 2010. A comparison of landscape fuel treatment strategies to mitigate wildland fire risk in the urban interface and preserve old forest structure. Forest Ecology and Management. 259: 1556-1570.