Estimating Wildfire Risk with a New Tool

6/28/2017

Fire managers rely on weather stations and drought conditions to assess daily fire risk and protect lives and property. In more rural areas, however, these stations are few and far between, and manually combining weather data can take considerable time. 

A new resource—the Fire Risk Estimation, or FIRE, tool—automatically processes satellite and weather station data into a single measurement of fire potential. The team behind the FIRE tool compared weather and climate data with historical fire records to identify conditions that result in high wildfire risk. They then ranked each indicator by importance and designed the FIRE tool to:

Process near real-time data

Determine when indicator thresholds are met or exceeded

Account for how much each indicator influences risk

Once the FIRE tool calculates the overall risk potential, it plots it on a user-friendly interactive map, giving fire managers an easily understandable view of risk in different locations. It was originally designed for the Great Plains, but can be readily expanded for other regions of the United States. 

The tool was developed through a partnership between the National Centers for Environmental Information, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the US Army Corps of Engineers, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and the South Dakota State Fire Meteorologist. Learn more about the tool and how it works.