5th Symposium on Fire and Forest Meteorology and the 2nd International Wildland Fire Ecology and Fire Management Congress

Monday, 17 November 2003: 4:00 PM
Wildfire Risk Data Collection Using Handheld GPS and GIS
Andrew W. Martin, South Alabama Regional Planning Commission, Mobile, AL
The Wildfire Risk Assessment tool was developed and implemented under the National Fire Plan grant from the US Department of Interior, US Fish and Wildfire Service, for the areas directly adjacent to federally owned and maintained lands in Coastal Alabama. The tool allows an analyst to objectively assess a structure located in the Wildland / Urban interface and assign a standardized statistical measure to that structure based upon dependent and independent variables. When properly administered, the tool provides a statistical picture of the structure’s risk as compared to established guidelines. These generally accepted guidelines provide the basis for the coordination and targeting of a public education campaign in the streets identified to be the most at risk. Additionally, the structure locations maps will be used by land managers to target other mitigation efforts.

The assessment tool was mechanized for the handheld Trimble® GPS/PC unit by using ERSI’s ArcPad® Application Builder. The ArcPad application allowed the location of an assessed structure to be noted with GPS accuracy, removing all paperwork from the implementation and enhancing the ability of the tool to be implemented on a large geographic area.

Developing the project so the structures could be analyzed both individually and collectively has allowed for education efforts to be targeted for the areas in the most need of wildfire risk reduction. Structures were assigned a composite score. These composite scores where placed in color coded ranges and mapped. Areas with higher levels of risk where able to be identified.

The entirety of the project has shown that GPS and GIS technologies when successfully planned can greatly enhance the implementation and analysis of large area structural fire assessments. Properly coordinated, the use of Hand held PC’s, GPS and GIS can allow for easy data collection and risk assessments to occur across a large geographic area. Further, this technology provides an excellent time savings for field personal during data collection while also increasing the identification of area “hot spots.” Educational efforts are able to be efficiently targeted to location most at risk.

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