International Journal of Wildland Fire International Journal of Wildland Fire Society
Journal of the International Association of Wildland Fire

Spatial data for national fire planning and fuel management

International Journal of Wildland Fire 10(4) 353 - 372
Published: 2001


This paper was presented at the conference ‘Integrating spatial technologies and ecological principles for a new age in fire management’, Boise, Idaho, USA, June 1999

Spatial data products are most often developed to support resource management decisions. Rarely can the data stand by themselves as spatially-explicit risk assessments. We discuss the technical aspects of true risk assessments, and the contrast between risk assessments and the underlying spatial data that an agency might use to perform one. We then present the development methodology and results from a comprehensive, national effort at creating resource data products that may be useful in agency- or geographically-specific risk assessments.

We have produced a suite of spatial data layers, each a continuous coverage for the conterminous United States, to support national-level, programmatic planning efforts for fire and fuel management. This document describes the development of seven data layers: (1) Potential Natural Vegetation Groups; (2) Current Cover Types; (3) Historical Natural Fire Regimes; (4) Current Condition Classes; (5) National Fire Occurrence; (6) Potential Fire Characteristics; and (7) Population Density Groups. This paper documents the methodology used to develop the spatial products. We used a Geographic Information System (GIS) to integrate biophysical and remote sensing products with disturbance and succession processes. We then assigned attributes developed from succession diagrams to combinations of biophysical, current vegetation, and historical fire regime data layers. Regional ecologists, silviculturists, and fire managers developed the succession diagrams, reviewed and refined the data layers, and assigned condition classes.

None of these data layers were developed to stand alone as an integrated risk assessment. Technically-robust risk assessments require quantification not only of the probability of an event occurring—wildland fire in this case—but also of the values at risk of damage or loss. The ‘values’ component of a risk assessment is highly dependent on the resource management policies and objectives of the responsible agency. The data presented here were developed for integration by individual agencies into agency-specific plans and risk assessments. For example, planners will use the Current Condition Class data to allocate resources for fire and fuel management. These data are posted on the national, USDA Forest Service website

© IAWF 2001

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