Pyrologix LLC

Missoula, MT, United States

Pyrologix LLC

Missoula, MT, United States
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Thompson M.P.,U.S. Department of Agriculture | Scott J.,Pyrologix LLC | Kaiden J.D.,University of Montana | Gilbertson-Day J.W.,U.S. Department of Agriculture
Natural Hazards | Year: 2013

Spatially explicit burn probability modeling is increasingly applied to assess wildfire risk and inform mitigation strategy development. Burn probabilities are typically expressed on a per-pixel basis, calculated as the number of times a pixel burns divided by the number of simulation iterations. Spatial intersection of highly valued resources and assets (HVRAs) with pixel-based burn probability estimates enables quantification of HVRA exposure to wildfire in terms of expected area burned. However, statistical expectations can mask variability in HVRA area burned across all simulated fires. We present an alternative, polygon-based formulation for deriving estimates of HVRA area burned. This effort enhances investigations into spatial patterns of fire occurrence and behavior by overlaying simulated fire perimeters with mapped HVRA polygons to estimate conditional distributions of HVRA area burned. This information can be especially useful for assessing risks where cumulative effects and the spatial pattern and extent of area burned influence HVRA response to fire. We illustrate our modeling approach and demonstrate application across real-world landscapes for two case studies: first, a comparative analysis of exposure and area burned across ten municipal watersheds on the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest in Montana, USA, and second, fireshed delineation and exposure analysis of a geographically isolated and limited area of critical wildlife habitat on the Pike and San Isabel National Forests in Colorado, USA. We highlight how this information can be used to inform prioritization and mitigation decisions and can be used complementarily with more traditional pixel-based burn probability and fire intensity metrics in an expanded exposure analysis framework. © 2013 US Government.

Thompson M.P.,Rocky Research | Gilbertson-Day J.W.,Rocky Research | Scott J.H.,Pyrologix LLC
Environmental Modeling and Assessment | Year: 2015

We develop a novel risk assessment approach that integrates complementary, yet distinct, spatial modeling approaches currently used in wildfire risk assessment. Motivation for this work stems largely from limitations of existing stochastic wildfire simulation systems, which can generate pixel-based outputs of fire behavior as well as polygon-based outputs of simulated final fire perimeters, but due to storage and processing limitations do not retain spatially resolved information on intensity within a given fire perimeter. Our approach surmounts this limitation by merging pixel- and polygon-based modeling results to portray a fuller picture of potential wildfire impacts to highly valued resources and assets (HVRAs). The approach is premised on using fire perimeters to calculate fire-level impacts while explicitly capturing spatial variation of wildfire intensity and HVRA susceptibility within the perimeter. Relative to earlier work that generated statistical expectations of risk, this new approach can better account for the range of possible fire-level or season-level outcomes, providing far more comprehensive information on wildfire risk. To illustrate the utility of this new approach, we focus on a municipal watershed on the Pike and San Isabel National Forests in Colorado, USA. We demonstrate a variety of useful modeling outputs, including exceedance probability charts, conditional distributions of watershed area burned and watershed impacts, and transmission of risk to the watershed based on ignition location. These types of results can provide more information than is otherwise available using existing assessment frameworks, with significant implications for decision support in pre-fire planning, fuel treatment design, and wildfire incident response. © 2015 Springer International Publishing Switzerland (outside the USA)

Scott J.H.,Pyrologix LLC | Thompson M.P.,U.S. Department of Agriculture | Calkin D.E.,U.S. Department of Agriculture
USDA Forest Service - General Technical Report RMRS-GTR | Year: 2013

Wildfires can result in significant, long-lasting impacts to ecological, social, and economic systems. It is necessary, therefore, to identify and understand the risks posed by wildland fire, and to develop cost-effective mitigation strategies accordingly. This report presents a general framework with which to assess wildfire risk and explore mitigation options, and illustrates a process for implementing the framework. Two key strengths of the framework are its flexibility- allowing for a multitude of data sources, modeling techniques, and approaches to measuring risk-and its scalability, with potential application for project, forest, regional, and national planning. The specific risk assessment process we introduce is premised on three modeling approaches to characterize wildfire likelihood and intensity, fire effects, and the relative importance of highly valued resources and assets that could be impacted by wildfire. The spatial scope of the process is landscape-scale, and the temporal scope is short-term (that is, the temporal dynamics of succession and disturbance are not simulated). We highlight key information needs, provide guidance for use of fire simulation models and risk geo-processing tools, and demonstrate recent applications of the framework across planning scales. The aim of this report is to provide fire and land managers with a helpful set of guiding principles and tools for assessing and mitigating wildfire risk.

Thompson M.P.,Rocky Research | Freeborn P.,Pyrologix LLC | Rieck J.D.,Pyrologix LLC | Calkin D.E.,Pyrologix LLC | And 3 more authors.
International Journal of Wildland Fire | Year: 2016

We present a case study of the Las Conchas Fire (2011) to explore the role of previously burned areas (wildfires and prescribed fires) on suppression effectiveness and avoided exposure. Methodological innovations include characterisation of the joint dynamics of fire growth and suppression activities, development of a fire line effectiveness framework, and quantification of relative fire line efficiencies inside and outside of previously burned areas. We provide descriptive statistics of several fire line effectiveness metrics. Additionally, we leverage burn probability modelling to examine how burned areas could have affected fire spread potential and subsequent exposure of highly valued resources and assets to fire. Results indicate that previous large fires exhibited significant and variable impacts on suppression effectiveness and fire spread potential. Most notably the Cerro Grande Fire (2000) likely exerted a significant and positive influence on containment, and in the absence of that fire the community of Los Alamos and the Los Alamos National Laboratory could have been exposed to higher potential for loss. Although our scope of inference is limited results are consistent with other research, suggesting that fires can exert negative feedbacks that can reduce resistance to control and enhance the effectiveness of suppression activities on future fires. © IAWF 2016.

Determining the degree of risk that wildfires pose to homes, where across the landscape the risk originates, and who can best mitigate risk are integral elements of effective co-management of wildfire risk. Developing assessments and tools to help provide this information is a high priority for federal land management agencies such as the US Forest Service (USFS) that have limited resources to invest in hazardous fuel reduction and other mitigation activities. In this manuscript we investigate the degree to which fuel management practices on USFS land can reduce wildfire exposure to human communities. We leverage wildfire simulation with spatial risk analysis techniques and examine a range of hypothetical fuel treatment scenarios on a landscape encompassing the Sierra National Forest in California, USA. Results suggest that treating USFS land does little to reduce overall wildland urban interface (WUI) exposure across the landscape. A treatment scenario that focused on treating defensible space near homes was by far the most efficient at reducing WUI exposure, including exposure transmitted from USFS lands. Findings highlight potential tradeoffs and raise questions as to what other land management objectives fuel treatments on federal lands might be able to more cost-effectively achieve relative to WUI protection. Site-specific risk-based analyses can help elucidate these tradeoffs and opportunities. © 2015.

Thompson M.P.,Rocky Research | Scott J.,Pyrologix LLC | Helmbrecht D.,TEAMS Enterprise Unit | Calkin D.E.,Rocky Research
Integrated Environmental Assessment and Management | Year: 2013

The financial, socioeconomic, and ecological impacts of wildfire continue to challenge federal land management agencies in the United States. In recent years, policymakers and managers have increasingly turned to the field of risk analysis to better manage wildfires and to mitigate losses to highly valued resources and assets (HVRAs). Assessing wildfire risk entails the interaction of multiple components, including integrating wildfire simulation outputs with geospatial identification of HVRAs and the characterization of fire effects to HVRAs. We present an integrated and systematic risk assessment framework that entails 3 primary analytical components: 1) stochastic wildfire simulation and burn probability modeling to characterize wildfire hazard, 2) expert-based modeling to characterize fire effects, and 3) multicriteria decision analysis to characterize preference structures across at-risk HVRAs. We demonstrate application of this framework for a wildfire risk assessment performed on the Little Belts Assessment Area within the Lewis and Clark National Forest in Montana, United States. We devote particular attention to our approach to eliciting and encapsulating expert judgment, in which we: 1) adhered to a structured process for using expert judgment in ecological risk assessment, 2) used as our expert base local resource scientists and fire/fuels specialists who have a direct connection to the specific landscape and HVRAs in question, and 3) introduced multivariate response functions to characterize fire effects to HVRAs that consider biophysical variables beyond fire behavior. We anticipate that this work will further the state of wildfire risk science and will lead to additional application of risk assessment to inform land management planning. Integr Environ Assess Manag.© 2012 SETAC.

Parresol B.R.,U.S. Department of Agriculture | Scott J.H.,Pyrologix LLC | Andreu A.,University of Washington | Prichard S.,University of Washington | Kurth L.,U.S. Department of Agriculture
Forest Ecology and Management | Year: 2012

Currently geospatial fire behavior analyses are performed with an array of fire behavior modeling systems such as FARSITE, FlamMap, and the Large Fire Simulation System. These systems currently require standard or customized surface fire behavior fuel models as inputs that are often assigned through remote sensing information. The ability to handle hundreds or thousands of measured surface fuelbeds representing the fine scale variation in fire behavior on the landscape is constrained in terms of creating compatible custom fire behavior fuel models. In this study, we demonstrate an objective method for taking ecologically complex fuelbeds from inventory observations and converting those into a set of custom fuel models that can be mapped to the original landscape. We use an original set of 629 fuel inventory plots measured on an 80,000ha contiguous landscape in the upper Atlantic Coastal Plain of the southeastern United States. From models linking stand conditions to component fuel loads, we impute fuelbeds for over 6000 stands. These imputed fuelbeds were then converted to fire behavior parameters under extreme fuel moisture and wind conditions (97th percentile) using the fuel characteristic classification system (FCCS) to estimate surface fire rate of spread, surface fire flame length, shrub layer reaction intensity (heat load), non-woody layer reaction intensity, woody layer reaction intensity, and litter-lichen-moss layer reaction intensity. We performed hierarchical cluster analysis of the stands based on the values of the fire behavior parameters. The resulting 7 clusters were the basis for the development of 7 custom fire behavior fuel models from the cluster centroids that were calibrated against the FCCS point data for wind and fuel moisture. The latter process resulted in calibration against flame length as it was difficult to obtain a simultaneous calibration against both rate of spread and flame length. The clusters based on FCCS fire behavior parameters represent reasonably identifiable stand conditions, being: (1) pine dominated stands with more litter and down woody debris components than other stands, (2) hardwood and pine stands with no shrubs, (3) hardwood dominated stands with low shrub and high non-woody biomass and high down woody debris, (4) stands with high grass and forb (i.e., non-woody) biomass as well as substantial shrub biomass, (5) stands with both high shrub and litter biomass, (6) pine-mixed hardwood stands with moderate litter biomass and low shrub biomass, and (7) baldcypress-tupelo stands. Models representing these stand clusters generated flame lengths from 0.6 to 2.3m using a 30kmh -1 wind speed and fireline intensities of 100-1500kWm -1 that are typical within the range of experience on this landscape. The fuel models ranked 1<2<7<5<4<3<6 in terms of both flame length and fireline intensity. The method allows for ecologically complex data to be utilized in order to create a landscape representative of measured fuel conditions and to create models that interface with geospatial fire models. © 2012 Elsevier B.V.

Thompson M.P.,U.S. Department of Agriculture | Bowden P.,U.S. Department of Agriculture | Brough A.,U.S. Department of Agriculture | Scott J.H.,Pyrologix LLC | And 4 more authors.
Forests | Year: 2016

How wildfires are managed is a key determinant of long-term socioecological resiliency and the ability to live with fire. Safe and effective response to fire requires effective pre-fire planning, which is the main focus of this paper. We review general principles of effective federal fire management planning in the U.S., and introduce a framework for incident response planning consistent with these principles. We contextualize this framework in relation to a wildland fire management continuum based on federal fire management policy in the U.S. The framework leverages recent advancements in spatial wildfire risk assessment-notably the joint concepts of in situ risk and source risk-and integrates assessment results with additional geospatial information to develop and map strategic response zones. We operationalize this framework in a geographic information system (GIS) environment based on landscape attributes relevant to fire operations, and define Potential wildland fire Operational Delineations (PODs) as the spatial unit of analysis for strategic response. Using results from a recent risk assessment performed on several National Forests in the Southern Sierra Nevada area of California, USA, we illustrate how POD-level summaries of risk metrics can reduce uncertainty surrounding potential losses and benefits given large fire occurrence, and lend themselves naturally to design of fire and fuel management strategies. To conclude we identify gaps, limitations, and uncertainties, and prioritize future work to support safe and effective incident response. © 2016 by the authors.

Thompson M.P.,Rocky Research | Haas J.R.,Rocky Research | Gilbertson-Day J.W.,Rocky Research | Scott J.H.,Pyrologix LLC | And 3 more authors.
Environmental Modelling and Software | Year: 2015

Applying wildfire risk assessment models can inform investments in loss mitigation and landscape restoration, and can be used to monitor spatiotemporal trends in risk. Assessing wildfire risk entails the integration of fire modeling outputs, maps of highly valued resources and assets (HVRAs), characterization of fire effects, and articulation of relative importance across HVRAs. Quantifying and geo-processing wildfire risk can be a complex and time-intensive task, often requiring expertise in geospatial analysis. Researchers and land managers alike would benefit from a standardized and streamlined ability to estimate wildfire risk. In this paper we present the development and application of a geospatial wildfire risk calculation tool, FireNVC. We describe the major components of the tool and how they align with a geospatial wildfire risk assessment framework, detail a recent application of the tool to inform federal wildfire management and planning, and offer suggestions for future improvements and uses of the tool. © 2014.

Scott J.,Pyrologix LLC | Helmbrecht D.,TEAMS Enterprise Unit | Thompson M.P.,Rocky Research | Calkin D.E.,Rocky Research | Marcille K.,Oregon State University
Natural Hazards | Year: 2012

The occurrence of wildfires within municipal watersheds can result in significant impacts to water quality and ultimately human health and safety. In this paper, we illustrate the application of geospatial analysis and burn probability modeling to assess the exposure of municipal watersheds to wildfire. Our assessment of wildfire exposure consists of two primary components: (1) wildfire hazard, which we characterize with burn probability, fireline intensity, and a composite index, and (2) geospatial intersection of watershed polygons with spatially resolved wildfire hazard metrics. This effort enhances investigation into spatial patterns of fire occurrence and behavior and enables quantitative comparisons of exposure across watersheds on the basis of a novel, integrated measure of wildfire hazard. As a case study, we consider the municipal watersheds located on the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest (BDNF) in Montana, United States. We present simulation results to highlight exposure across watersheds and generally demonstrate vast differences in fire likelihood, fire behavior, and expected area burned among the analyzed municipal watersheds. We describe how this information can be incorporated into risk-based strategic fuels management planning and across the broader wildfire management spectrum. To conclude, we discuss strengths and limitations of our approach and offer potential future expansions. © 2012 US Government.

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