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  1. Abstract This paper describes a dataset mined from the public archive (1999–2020) of the US National Incident Management System Incident Status Summary (ICS-209) forms (a total of 187,160 reports for 35,170 incidents, including 34,478 wildland fires). This system captures detailed daily/regular information on incident development and response, including social and economic impacts. Most (98.4%) reports are wildland fire-related, with other incident types including hurricane, hazardous materials, flood, tornado, search and rescue, civil unrest, and winter storms. The archive, although publicly available, has been difficult to use for research due to multiple record formats, inconsistent data entry, and no clean pathway from individual reports to high-level incident analysis. Here, we describe the open-source, reproducible methods used to produce a science-grade version of the data, including formal connections made to other published wildland fire data products. Among other applications, this integrated and spatially augmented dataset enables exploration of the daily progression of the most costly, damaging, and deadly environmental-hazard events in recent US history.
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available December 1, 2024
  2. Liu, Junguo (Ed.)
    Abstract Structure loss is an acute, costly impact of the wildfire crisis in the western conterminous United States (“West”), motivating the need to understand recent trends and causes. We document a 246% rise in West-wide structure loss from wildfires between 1999–2009 and 2010–2020, driven strongly by events in 2017, 2018, and 2020. Increased structure loss was not due to increased area burned alone. Wildfires became significantly more destructive, with a 160% higher structure-loss rate (loss/kha burned) over the past decade. Structure loss was driven primarily by wildfires from unplanned human-related ignitions (e.g. backyard burning, power lines, etc.), which accounted for 76% of all structure loss and resulted in 10 times more structures destroyed per unit area burned compared with lightning-ignited fires. Annual structure loss was well explained by area burned from human-related ignitions, while decadal structure loss was explained by state-level structure abundance in flammable vegetation. Both predictors increased over recent decades and likely interacted with increased fuel aridity to drive structure-loss trends. While states are diverse in patterns and trends, nearly all experienced more burning from human-related ignitions and/or higher structure-loss rates, particularly California, Washington, and Oregon. Our findings highlight how fire regimes—characteristics of fire over space and time—aremore »fundamentally social-ecological phenomena. By resolving the diversity of Western fire regimes, our work informs regionally appropriate mitigation and adaptation strategies. With millions of structures with high fire risk, reducing human-related ignitions and rethinking how we build are critical for preventing future wildfire disasters.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available March 1, 2024
  3. Fires are more than twice as frequent and four times the size compared to previous decades.
  4. Free, publicly-accessible full text available January 1, 2024
  5. Disturbance events can happen at a temporal scale much faster than wildland fire fuel data updates. When used as input for wildland fire behavior models, outdated fuel datasets can contribute to misleading forecasts, which have implications for operational firefighting, mitigation, and wildland fire research. Remote sensing and machine learning methods can provide a solution for on-demand fuel estimation. Here, we show a proof of concept using C-band synthetic aperture radar and multispectral imagery, land cover classes, and tree mortality surveys to train a random forest classifier to estimate wildland fire fuel data in the East Troublesome Fire (Colorado) domain. The algorithm classified over 80% of the test dataset correctly, and the resulting wildland fire fuel data was used to simulate the East Troublesome Fire using the coupled atmosphere—wildland fire behavior model, WRF-Fire. The simulation using the modified fuel inputs, where 43% of original fuels are replaced with fuels representing dead trees, improved the burn area forecast by 38%. This study demonstrates the need for up-to-date fuel maps available in real time to provide accurate prediction of wildland fire spread, and outlines the methodology based on high-resolution satellite observations and machine learning that can accomplish this task.
  6. Abstract Increasing fire impacts across North America are associated with climate and vegetation change, greater exposure through development expansion, and less-well studied but salient social vulnerabilities. We are at a critical moment in the contemporary human-fire relationship, with an urgent need to transition from emergency response to proactive measures that build sustainable communities, protect human health, and restore the use of fire necessary for maintaining ecosystem processes. We propose an integrated risk factor that includes fire and smoke hazard, exposure, and vulnerability as a method to identify ‘fires that matter’, that is, fires that have potentially devastating impacts on our communities. This approach enables pathways to delineate and prioritise science-informed planning strategies most likely to increase community resilience to fires.