Wildland fire is a major concern in the wildland–urban interface (WUI), where human structures intermingle with wildland vegetation. Reducing wildfire risk in the WUI is more complicated than in wildland areas, owing to interactions between spatial patterns of housing and wildland fuels. Fuel treatments are commonly applied in wildlands surrounding WUI communities. Protecting the immediate surroundings of structures and building with fire-resistant materials might be more effective, but limited resources and uncooperative homeowners often make these impractical. Our question was how to allocate fuel treatments in the WUI under these constraints. We developed an approach to allocate fuel breaks around individual or groups of structures to minimise total treatment area. Treatment units were ranked according to their housing density and fire risk. We tested this method in a Wisconsin landscape containing 3768 structures, and found that our treatment approach required considerably less area than alternatives (588 v. 1050 ha required to protect every structure independently). Our method may serve as a baseline for planning fuel treatments in WUI areas where it is impractical to protect every single house, or when fire-proofing is unfeasible. This approach is especially suitable in regions where spotting is a minor cause of home ignitions.
Authors: Avi Bar Massada, Volker C. Radeloff, Susan I. Stewart