Friday, April 26, 2013

New Website Provides Colorado with Wildfire Risk Data

Colorado National Guard fights High Park, CO fire in 2012.
Photo Courtesy of the U.S. Air Force
Wildfires in Colorado are a natural part of the ecosystems and are crucial to restore and maintain healthy forests. However, they pose a real danger to the lives and property of a growing percent of the population. Population growth has created a new resource/management conflict which has been termed the wildland-urban interface, "where man-made improvements are built close to, or within, natural terrain and flammable vegetation, and where high potential for wildland fire exists."

The U.S. Forest Service (USFS) has struggled to find the best management practices to utilize in response to wildfires. A USFS research publication states, ". . . climate change, extended drought, increased insect and disease outbreaks, and invasions of exotic plant species have added complications to fire management on public and private lands."

The increased interest, debate and study of wildfire management has led the Colorado State Forest Service to create a new website, the Colorado Wildfire Risk Assessment Portal (CO-WRAP). "The goal of the project is to provide a consistent, comparable set of scientific results to be used as a foundation for wildfire mitigation and prevention planning in Colorado."

The website provides community leaders, planning and forestry professionals and citizens access to maps, data and reports which describe project areas, neighborhoods or watersheds. CO-WRAP uses geographic information system data which allows users to view themes such as historic fire occurrence, values at risk to fire, potential fire intensity, and the likelihood of an acre burning. 

Paul Cooke, director of the Colorado Division of Fire Prevention and Control said, "Whether to increase public awareness about wildfire risk, or to put much-needed information at the fingertips of fire managers, CO-WRAP will be a tremendous asset for Colorado.”
 Angelica Oman
Graduate Program Assistant 

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