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Natural Resource Conservation

DOD Wildfire Hazard Analysis


Andrew Beavers, Wildland Fire Program Manager, Center for Environmental Management of Military Lands, Colorado State University:


The military is susceptible to a wide range of wildfire impacts, including damage to installation infrastructure and resources as well as impacts to neighbors. But there is very limited data with which to assess the level of wildfire exposure at each installation. National and installation-level wildfire occurrence data varies widely in completeness and accuracy, making data-driven assessments of the wildfire threat difficult at the regional and national level. This information is critical, as understanding the location and nature of the problem is required to effectively solve it.

This Legacy Resource Management Program funded study (Legacy Project #16-788) leveraged previously acquired Army data in combination with data developed under this study to triage 145 installations in the Air Force (40), Army (53), Marine Corps (14), and Navy (37) based on their historical exposure to wildfires. We used Landsat imagery to delineate fire perimeters, producing a dataset with a consistent methodology across the entire study area. Ten wildfire characteristics discernable from the fire perimeters were calculated. These included measures such as the total number of wildfires detected, how many crossed the installation boundary, and the proportion of the installation area burned over the study period. This data was normalized and installations were grouped based on a statistical cluster analysis. Groups were assigned a wildfire hazard level, and then individual installations were reviewed to refine hazard classifications. Installations were triaged within their military branch as well as across the four branches analyzed.

We identified 5,291 wildfires across the 11-year span of our data. The triaging process identified 13 high-hazard installations, including nine from the Army, three from the Air Force, and one from the Marine Corps. An additional 31 installations were found to be exposed to moderate fire hazard. Identifying installations with high and moderate wildfire hazards will increase the ability of national wildland fire managers to focus resources and make data-driven wildfire management decisions. Additionally, this study identified installations that likely have limited wildfire liability, and therefore can be expected to require little wildfire mitigation, increasing wildfire resourcing efficiencies.

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