New forest service web tool helps evaluate risk of wildfire to homes
April 25, 2013
The Colorado Forest Service has designed an online tool that allows Summit County residents to assess the wildfire risk in their neighborhoods.
“We wanted to create awareness of wildfire risk for the individual who lives in Colorado,” said Rich Homann, a staff forester with the Colorado Forest Service. “We also wanted to inform decision makers about the risk, so they could have information available to them to base decisions on and prioritize actions.”
The Colorado Wildfire Risk Assessment, or CO-WRAP, allows web visitors to view maps and download information about neighborhoods and watersheds.
The portal was created using GIS (geographic information systems) and combines information from fire departments, the National Weather Service, the U.S. Census Bureau and other sources to evaluate the risk of wildfire to individual homes.
“We wanted to gather as much information as possible from a lot of different sources and put it in one place where it was accessible for anybody who wanted to use it,” Homann said.
The wildfire tool also allows community leaders, planning professionals and forestry professionals to use the information to inform future development decisions.
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The professional viewer, which requires web registration, could also aid in the creation of fire protection and forest stewardship plans for local agencies, forest service officials said.
“Wildland fires continue to threaten people, property, drinking water and forest assets across Colorado,” Interim state forester Joe Duda said in a news release. “Heightened awareness of wildfire risk and the forest management measures necessary to mitigate that risk are becoming increasingly important to ensure public safety.”
Colorado residents who use the fire risk tool can learn more about what to expect if there is a wildfire in their area. The tool can also be used to get assistance from local agencies.
Summit County residents had the chance to view the tool at a wildfire protection meeting Wednesday evening in Frisco. Speakers at the meeting, sponsored by the Forest Health Task Force, urged community members to use the online tool to learn more about their specific situations.
However, they also urged residents to not become overly reliant on the tool. Houses listed in a low-risk area could still be susceptible to wildfires. And residents whose homes are found to be in high-risk areas can make important strides to protect their property from possible wildfire damage, said Forest Health Task Force representative Howard Hallman.