Southern Wildfire Risk Assessment
The Southern Wildfire Risk Assessment (SWRA) is the first comprehensive wildfire risk assessment of its kind in the nation. Spearheaded by the Southern Group of State Foresters, it is also the first cooperative effort of data collection of this magnitude in the country. Major partners in the project are the USDA Forest Service, US Fish & Wildlife Service, National Park Service, Bureau of Indian Affairs and the US Department of Defense.
The SWRA consists of a series of computer-based Geographic Information System (GIS) layers that can be used separately or in combination to provide powerful graphic images of wildfire occurrence and wildfire risk in the South. Unlike other risk assessments, which only display layers of standardized information, the SWRA assigns weighted numerical values to the relevant data inputs to produce customized outputs of overall risk calculations.
Because the SWRA outputs are based on numerical calculations, users can change inputs and re-run the calculations to determine their effect on the overall wildfire risk. For example, fuel type may be changed (hazardous fuel treatments), structures added (new sub-divisions), fire occurrence can be changed (fire prevention efforts) or fire fighting resources might be added. Then the SWRA can be re-run to determine what effect these changes have on overall wildfire susceptibility.
How will the SWRA information be used?
The SWRA can be a valuable tool to help fire managers predict and target more precisely those areas that are at high risk for wildfire, where fires will be difficult to control. Firefighters will be able to determine the likelihood of a fire igniting in a given area. The assessment will also give valuable information on where and how to attack a fire, accessibility, and optimum positioning of equipment.
Fire prevention specialists can access maps that show communities at risk, historical fire occurrence, and fire behavior potential allowing them to help at-risk communities target and reduce hazards.