To identify and prioritize areas of concern, wildfire hazard is assessed at the county and local scale. CPAW develops hazard assessments to support land use decision-making in partnership with the U.S. Forest Service Rocky Mountain Research Station.
Highly detailed wildfire hazard maps can assist in the planning of desired land uses that reduce communities’ wildfire risks. By identifying likely wildfire locations and intensities, hazard maps help prioritize areas of concern and guide decision-making efforts. In addition, wildfire hazard maps identify areas where development can take place safely with minimum risk exposure. Wildfire hazard maps can help guide the development review process for proposed subdivisions and existing structures, support education and outreach to homeowners and the public, supplement grant applications and funding requests, and improve regulatory planning within the WUI.
Other benefits of wildfire hazard assessments include:
- Provide the ability to stratify land use ordinances and development codes based on low to high hazard areas.
- Support the development of more detailed, structure-level risk assessments.
- Educate the public and support outreach efforts to raise awareness of wildfire hazard,
- Provide critical information to Community Wildfire Protection Plans, County Comprehensive Plans, Hazard Mitigation Plans, and other guiding documents.
- Identify the least hazardous locations for neighborhoods and critical infrastructure like power lines and other utilities.
- Target neighborhoods and communities where enhanced mitigation measures are needed or where socioeconomic vulnerabilities make wildfire .
- Provide base information for efforts to model effects of post-fire flooding or other rehabilitation issues.
Wildfire hazard data can be shared with the public in innovative, engaging ways. Multi-media story maps, such as those developed in Missoula County, MT; Taos, NM; and San Luis Valley, CO can help put wildfire in context for a community. Austin, TX combined hazard data with socioeconomic variables to better understand where vulnerable populations and wildfire threats intersect, helping to tailor programs to improve equity and resiliency.