Tracking Wildfire Risk in Your Backyard
Fire season has already started in Colorado with the so-called Blue Bell fire igniting near Denver this week. Closer to home, fire officials are holding meetings in local communities to get people prepared.
In an effort to educate people statewide, Colorado State University has unveiled a new website that pinpoints fire risk throughout the state. As Aspen Public Radio’s Marci Krivonen reports the website allows the user to type in their address to see how susceptible their home is to wildfire.
The new website shows a map of Colorado dotted with reds and oranges. As type in my home address, the screen zooms to my neighborhood. If I click near my backyard, a message pops up saying fire risk is moderate in this area. It gives a description of what a fire might look like: the flame heights and how difficult it would be to fight near my house. And, it gives tips on how to make my home more resistant to fires.
The website is officially called the Colorado Wildfire Risk Assessment Portal. The effort combines years of wildfire data into an online mapping tool. Rich Homann is a Forester with the Colorado State Forest Service. He’s been assisting with the roll out of the site.
"It’s an easy way for the public to access information about wildfire threat, risk, and the effects of wildfire on natural resources," he says.
Wildland fires continue to threaten people and property across the West. Last year, more than 9 million acres burned in the region. Homann says the hope is that the website could limit wildfire destruction.
“We hope that people use it before fires start in order to learn about the risk and learn about what they can do to mitigate that risk, so that we don’t have fires as bad as in the recent past.”
Wildfire risk is different from neighborhood to neighborhood because of several factors.Weather patterns, dead trees, high grasses and other fuels as well as the history of fire in the area are all all factors. Drinking water, ecological assets and the homes themselves also add into determining the risk says Homann.
Besides the public, firefighters around the state are using the website for forest management planning and fire mitigation preparation.