Assessing wildfire exposure in the Wildland-Urban Interface area of the mountains of central Argentina

Wildfires are a major threat to people and property in Wildland Urban Interface (WUI) communities
worldwide, but while the patterns of the WUI in North America, Europe and Oceania have been studied
before, this is not the case in Latin America. Our goals were to a) map WUI areas in central Argentina, and
b) assess wildfire exposure for WUI communities in relation to historic fires, with special emphasis on
large fires and estimated burn probability based on an empirical model. We mapped the WUI in the
mountains of central Argentina (810,000 ha), after digitizing the location of 276,700 buildings and
deriving vegetation maps from satellite imagery. The areas where houses and wildland vegetation
intermingle were classified as Intermix WUI (housing density > 6.17 hu/km2 and wildland vegetation
cover > 50%), and the areas where wildland vegetation abuts settlements were classified as Interface
WUI (housing density > 6.17 hu/km2, wildland vegetation cover < 50%, but within 600 m of a vegetated patch larger than 5 km2). We generated burn probability maps based on historical fire data from 1999 to 2011; as well as from an empirical model of fire frequency. WUI areas occupied 15% of our study area and contained 144,000 buildings (52%). Most WUI area was Intermix WUI, but most WUI buildings were in the Interface WUI. Our findings suggest that central Argentina has a WUI fire problem. WUI areas included most of the buildings exposed to wildfires and most of the buildings located in areas of higher burn probability. Our findings can help focus fire management activities in areas of higher risk, and ultimately provide support for landscape management and planning aimed at reducing wildfire risk in WUI communities.

File: Arganaraz2017_WUI_Argentina_JEM.pdf

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Assessment of the present dynamics of fires in arid ecosystems by use of remote sensing data: the case of Chernye Zemli.

The process of vegetation burning is an essential component in the dynamics of grassy arid ecosystems. An understanding of the impact of fires on various components of the arid ecosystem is required for scientific, environmental, and management tasks, and it should be assessed with a high spatial and temporal resolution. This paper presents a method and description of data to be used in such an assessment of fire dynamics. The spatiotemporal dynamics of fires in the Chernye Zemli area is described. It shows the abundance of fires, their high interannual variability, clusterization in a territory, and the dominance of large fires.

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Recovery and adaptation after wildfire on the Colorado Front Range (2010-2012)

Following the loss of homes to wildfire, when risk has been made apparent, homeowners must decide whethe to rebuild, and choose materials and vegetation, while local governments guide recovery and rebuilding. As wildfires ar smaller and more localised than other disasters, it is unclear if recovery after wildfire results in policy change and adaptation decreasing assets at risk, or if recovery encourages reinvestment in hazard-prone areas. We studied three wildfires on th Colorado Front Range from 2010 to 2012 that each destroyed over 150 homes, describing policy response and characterisin the built environment after wildfire. In each location, we found some adaptation, through better-mitigated homes an stronger building and vegetation mitigation standards, but also extensive reinvestment in hazard-prone environments, wit governmental support. Despite suggestions that disaster can lead to substantial policy change and elevate the role of land-us planning, we saw only modest reforms: local governments did not revise land-use regulations; a statewide task forc considered but did not require standards for building and vegetation mitigation; and only one jurisdiction strengthened it building and vegetation mitigation standards. Experiences in Colorado suggest that time after wildfire either does no provide extensive opportunities for adaptation in the built environment, or that these opportunities are easily missed.

File: Mockrin_etal_2016_IntlJWF.pdf

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Places where wildfire potential and social vulnerability coincide in the coterminous United States

The hazards-of-place model posits that vulnerability to environmental hazards depends on both biophysica and social factors. Biophysical factors determine where wildfire potential is elevated, whereas social factors determin where and how people are affected by wildfire. We evaluated place vulnerability to wildfire hazards in the coterminou US. We developed a social vulnerability index using principal component analysis and evaluated it against existin measures of wildfire potential and wildland–urban interface designations. We created maps showing the coincidence o social vulnerability and wildfire potential to identify places according to their vulnerability to wildfire. We found tha places with high wildfire potential have, on average, lower social vulnerability than other places, but nearly 10% of al housing in places with high wildfire potential also exhibits high social vulnerability. We summarised our data by states t evaluate trends at a subnational level. Although some regions, such as the South-east, had more housing in places with hig wildfire vulnerability, other regions, such as the upper Midwest, exhibited higher rates of vulnerability than expected. Ou results can help to inform wildfire prevention, mitigation and recovery planning, as well as reduce wildfire hazard affecting vulnerable places and populations.

File: Wigtl_etal_2016_IntnlJWF.pdf

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Prioritizing land management efforts at a landscape scale: a case study using prescribed fire in Wisconsin

One challenge in the effort to conserve biodiversity is identifying where to prioritize resources for active land management. Cost–benefit analyses have been used successfully as a conservation tool to identify sites that provide the greatest conservation benefit per unit cost. Our goal was to apply cost–benefit analysis to the question of how to prioritize land management efforts, in our case the application of prescribed fire to natural landscapes in Wisconsin, USA. We quantified and mapped frequently burned communities and prioritized management units based on a suite of indices that captured ecological benefits, management effort, and the feasibility of successful long- term manage-ment actions. Data for these indices came from LANDFIRE, Wisconsin’s Wildlife Action Plan, and a nationwide wildland–urban interface assessment. We found that the majority of frequently burned vegetation types occurred in the southern portion of the state. How-ever, the highest priority areas for applying prescribed fire occurred in the central, north-west, and northeast portion of the state where frequently burned vegetation patches were larger and where identified areas of high biological importance area occurred. Although our focus was on the use of prescribed fire in Wisconsin, our methods can be adapted to prioritize other land management activities. Such prioritization is necessary to achieve the greatest possible benefits from limited funding for land management actions, and our results show that it is feasible at scales that are relevant for land management decisions.

File: Hmielowski_etal_2016_EcologicalApplications.pdf

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The relative impacts of vegetation, topography and spatial arrangement on building loss to wildfires in case studies in California and Colorado

Context Wildfires destroy thousands of building every year in the wildland urban interface. However fire typically only destroys a fraction of the building within a given fire perimeter, suggesting more coul be done to mitigate risk if we understood how t configure residential landscapes so that both peopl and buildings could survive fire Objectives Our goal was to understand the relativ importance of vegetation, topography and spatia arrangement of buildings on building loss, within th fire’s landscape context Methods We analyzed two fires: one in San Diego CA and another in Boulder, CO. We analyzed Googl Earth historical imagery to digitize buildings expose to the fires, a geographic information system t measure some of the explanatory variables, an FRAGSTATS to quantify landscape metrics. Usin logistic regression we conducted an exhaustive mode search to select the best models Results The type of variables that were importan varied across communities. We found complex spatia effects and no single model explained building los everywhere, but topography and the spatial arrangemen of buildings explained most of the variability i building losses. Vegetation connectivity was mor important than vegetation type Conclusions Location and spatial arrangement o buildings affect which buildings burn in a wildfire which is important for urban planning, building siting landscape design of future development, and to target fire prevention, fuel reduction, and homeowner educatio efforts in existing communities. Landscap context of buildings and communities is an importan aspect of building loss, and if taken into consideration could help communities adapt to fire.

File: Alexandre_etal_LE_2016.pdf

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Adapting to wildfire: rebuilding after home loss

Wildfire management now emphasizes fire-adapted communities that coexist wit wildfires, although it is unclear how communities will progress to this goal. Hazard research suggests that response to wildfire—specifically, rebuilding after fire—ma be a crucial opportunity for homeowner and community adaptation. We explor rebuilding after the 2010 Fourmile Canyon Fire from Boulder, CO, that destroye 165 homes, to better understand individual and community adaptation after wildfire We examined changes in perception of fire risk and structural characteristics an vegetation mitigation of rebuilt homes, to examine how homes, homeowners, an communities changed after fire. We found evidence that adaptation is occurring as well as evidence that it is not. Overall, rebuilding was slow. More than 3 2 year after the fire, only 30% of those who had lost homes had rebuilt. Postfire rebuildin will only change a fraction of homes, but it is a critical process to understand

File: Mockrin_etal_2015_Soc&NatRes.pdf

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Rebuilding and housing development after wildfire

The number of communities exposed to and affected by wildfire, particularly in the Wildland Urban Interface, is increasing, and both losses from and prevention of wildfire entail substantial economic costs. However, little is known about post-wildfire response by communities after structures are lost. Our goal was to characterize patterns and rates of rebuilding and new development after wildfires across the conterminous United States. We analyzed all wildfires that occurred across the conterminous United States from 2000 to 2005. We mapped 38,440 structures prior to fires, out of which 3,604 were burned, and 39,120 structures after fires, out of which 2,403 were new development and 1,881 were rebuilt. Nationally, rebuilding rates were low; only 25% of burned homes were rebuilt within five years, but rates were higher in the West, the South, and in Kansas. New development rates inside fire perimeters were similar to development rates in surrounding areas unaffected by fire. As a result, the number of structures within the fire perimeters was higher within 5 years of the fire than before, indicating that people want to live in wildland areas and are either willing to face the risks or not aware of them.

File: Alexandre_etal_IJWF_2015.pdf

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Human and biophysical influences on fire occurrence in the United States

National-scale analyses of ?re occurrence are needed to prioritize ?re policy and management activities across the United States. However, the drivers of national-scale patterns of ?re occurrence are not well understood, and how the relative importance of human or biophysical factors varies across the country is unclear. Our research goal was to model the drivers of ?re occurrence within ecoregions across the conterminous United States. We used generalized linear models to compare the relative in?uence of human, vegetation, climate, and topographic variables on ?re occurrence in the United States, as measured by MODIS active ?re detections collected between 2000 and 2006. We constructed models for all ?res and for large ?res only and generated predictive maps to quantify ?re occurrence probabilities. Areas with high ?re occurrence probabilities were widespread in the Southeast, and localized in the Mountain West, particularly in southern California, Arizona, and New Mexico. Probabilities for large-?re occurrence were generally lower, but hot spots existed in the western and southcentral United States The probability of ?re occurrence is a critical component of ?re risk assessments, in addition to vegetation type, ?re behavior, and the values at risk. Many of the hot spots we identi?ed have extensive development in the wildland-urban interface and are near large metropolitan areas. Our results demonstrated that human variables were important predictors of both all ?res and large ?res and frequently exhibited nonlinear relationships. However, vegetation, climate, and topography were also signi?cant variables in most ecoregions. If recent housing growth trends and ?re occurrence patterns continue, these areas will continue to challenge policies and management efforts seeking to balance the risks generated by wild?res with the ecological bene?ts of ?re.

File: Hawbaker_etal_2013_EcoApps.pdf

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