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

A comparison of the US National Fire Danger Rating System (NFDRS) with recorded fire occurrence and final fire size

Nicholas G. Walding A C , Hywel T. P. Williams B , Scott McGarvie B and Claire M. Belcher A
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A wildFIRE Lab, Hatherly Laboratories, University of Exeter, Prince of Wales Road, Exeter, EX4 4PS, UK.

B Earth System Science, College of Life and Environmental Sciences, University of Exeter, North Park Road, Exeter, EX4 4QE, UK.

C Corresponding author. Email: nw274@exeter.ac.uk

International Journal of Wildland Fire 27(2) 99-113 https://doi.org/10.1071/WF17030
Submitted: 11 February 2017  Accepted: 5 December 2017   Published: 19 February 2018

Abstract

Most previous research has assessed the ability of the National Fire Danger Rating System (NFDRS) to portray fire activity at either single sites or on small spatial scales, despite it being a nation-wide system. This study seeks to examine the relationships between a set of NFDRS fire danger indices (Fire Danger Ratings, Staffing Level and the Ignition Component) and measures of fire activity (fire occurrence and final fire size) across the entire conterminous US over an 8-year period. We reveal that different regions of the US display different levels of correspondence between each of the fire danger indices and recorded fire activity. Areas in the Southern and Eastern Geographic Area Coordination Centers (GACCs) exhibit weaker correlations than those in the Northwest, Northern Rockies, Great Basin and Northern California GACCs. Peaks in fire occurrence are shown to occur at mid–low values of fire danger whereas final fire sizes increase monotonically with each fire danger index. Our findings appear to align with perceived shifts in management practices currently employed across the US and indicate that the ability of the NFDRS to apportion the resources required to combat large fires is in general well developed.

Additional keywords: fire danger, fire risk, wildfire, wildfire management.


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