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Integrated use of a GIS and the Woodland Home Forest Fire Hazard Rating System

Shenandoah NP
Dan Hurlbert
The wildland-urban interface occurs anywhere homes or other structures are built in or near woodland areas. These areas generally contain trees and other combustible vegetative fuels that pose increased wildfire risk to life and property. Individuals can take steps to minimize risk by contacting local fire education specialists who will conduct evaluations and provide recommendations for implementing Firewise practices.

A Geographic Information System is shown to be crucial for planning and implementing a fire response and education program throughout communities along the wildland/urban interface of two National Parks in the Northeast Region of the National Park Service, Shenandoah National Park and Acadia National Park. Although each approach is unique to their respective programs, there is one common goal: working as partners with homeowners and community response agencies, we can effectively reduce loss caused by wildland fires.

Shenandoah model

Preparing for wildland fire threat along Shenandoah National Park’s boundary, fire management personnel conducted an evaluation of subdivisions in the area surrounding the Park’s wildland/urban interface. This evaluation includes:

-- Contact information for subdivisions and homeowners
-- Woodland Home Forest Fire Hazard Rating for subdivisions (see attachment – slide 1)
-- Water source locations near or in subdivisions along the Park boundary
-- Evacuation routes leading from subdivisions
-- A general contact/resource list for the area
-- Information about responding fire departments
-- Subdivision maps

All of this information is available in the Park’s Geographic Information System (GIS) for rapid display and analysis in the event of a wildland fire or similar incident (see attachment –slide 2). It is the goal of fire management personnel that this assessment will benefit future firefighting efforts involving SNP’s urban interface.

Acadia model

Using the approach developed at Shenandoah National Park, Acadia National Park was visited during the Fall of 2002 by a team consisting of Doug Raeburn, Fire Ecologist – Mountains to the Sea parks, and Dan Hurlbert, NER-NCR Fire/GIS Coordinator. Their tasks were to evaluate Acadia’s approach to risk assessment needs in-terms-of the Shenandoah model.

Acadia’s approach applies the Shenandoah model at the homeowner, rather than at the subdivision level of detail (see attachment – slide 3). Acadia’s Fire Information Specialist working with local community fire departments, will apply the nationally accepted Woodland Home Forest Fire Hazard Rating System to mapping developed properties within or adjacent to the park. The final assessment provides a numerical score useful for classifying fire hazard that is based on fuel model, slope, distance to flammable fuels, structural design and material, and other related factors (see attachment – slide 4). Once surveyed, information is available in a geographic information system where reports can be generated, on site, and provided to the homeowner (see attachment – slide 5). Reports will show the properties current risk to wildfire, contain photos documenting the current problem areas, and identify factors that would reduce wildfire risk (see attachment – slide 6). The homeowner can then choose to reduce risk by eliminating factors that contribute to hazard conditions.

April 08, 2004