An important tool for fire departments in areas prone to Wildland Urban Interface (WUI) is the risk assessment. This is often a lengthy process of walking around property making notes before moving on to the next, and then the next, and so on. Some departments are now using Rapid Wildfire Risk Assessments, quick curb-side evaluations of homes and surrounding areas. This approach benefits fire departments because they are cost-effective and take only minutes to complete.
The West Region Wildfire Council briefly discusses the benefits of Rapid Wildfire Risk Assessments, then goes into a detailed description of the eleven criteria evaluated. Each category is rated numerically; the tallied score is the property’s overall risk rating. A brief run-down of the categories:
- Background Risk Factors: Fuels, topography and slope.
- Home Hardening: Roof assembly, exterior, and decks and fencing.
- Defensible Space: Area around home modified to reduce fire hazard.
- Emergency Access: Ingress/egress, visibility and driveway clearance.
In one community within the Western Regional Wildfire Council’s jurisdiction, homeowners can access their risk assessment information. Authorities intended this project to both assist homeowners manage their risk and provide the local fire district with a better idea of the community’s needs should a wildfire strike.
United States Forest Service research from a similar project shows strong discrepancies in risk estimates PDF 2.8 MB between homeowner opinion and Rapid Wildfire Risk Assessment scores. This suggests community education programs and better risk communication could help homeowners realize their true risk.
Source: West Region Wildfire Council