Prolonged drought and climate change continue to increase the prevalence and severity of wildland fire, while the growing number of houses set within natural areas around urban developments (i.e., within the wildland urban interface [WUI]) adds to the potential hazard exposure. Characterizing the risk to WUI housing from wildfire is an important area of natural hazards and applied remote sensing research. This project is investigating how lidar data can be used to describe the vertical structure and fine-scale fuel characteristics within the home ignition zone. Using the Black Forest Fire of 2013 near Colorado Springs, Colorado, this research is generating lidar-derived vegetation measures, structure characteristics, and landscape features to quantify the prefire conditions that increased or decreased the likelihood of structure ignition and consumption in the State’s most destructive wildfire event to date. In addition to addressing this disaster, answers derived from these methods are useful to inform hazard mitigation decisions across the growing wildland urban interface in the western United States.
Aerial view of Colorado's Black Forest wildfire of 2013 showing the burn perimeter (red boundary) and the locations of destroyed (red) and unaffected structures (green).