Since 2015, the United States has averaged 100 more large wildfires every year than the year before, creating conditions in which wildfires overwhelm response capabilities.
On June 30, the White House released a statement summarizing the actions it is already taking, and those it intends to take once the FY2022 budget is passed, to address the growing wildfire threat. The statement acknowledges that management of wildfires is a multi-agency effort, requiring a risk-based suppression strategy. It highlights many of the valuable initiatives and projects already underway to manage wildfire risks and to facilitate safe and effective wildland firefighting.
One such project is the U.S. Forest Service’s (USFS) Fireshed Registry. In May 2021, the USFS published a report describing the development and application of the Fireshed Registry in wildfire risk management. The Fireshed Registry is a geospatial dashboard and decision tool built in ArcGIS online, serving as the data warehouse for the Forest Service Scenario Planning Platform. Although the Fireshed Registry is not a public-facing application, its capabilities and plans for its continued development are described in detail in the report.
The Fireshed Registry’s method of classifying wildfire risk offers advantages over existing tools and classification systems. Most existing WUI classification schemes rely on vulnerabilities within individual communities, such as the locations of structures and surrounding vegetation in the developed area. The “fireshed” classification system factors in longer fire seasons and the rising size and severity of wildfires. It prioritizes large areas of wildlands — the source of fire in developed areas — rather than focusing solely on individual communities that need protection from these sources of fire.
More importantly, the Fireshed Registry provides the Forest Service with a planning framework for tracking changes in fireshed conditions at forest, regional and national scales. This in turn provides a foundation for communication and coordination with external agencies and partners for cross-boundary collaboration, supporting the Shared Stewardship initiative.
The data from the Fireshed Registry, as part of the Forest Service Scenario Planning Platform, has many applications for improved resource and funding allocation, such as the ability to prioritize forest treatment projects, allow for more efficient investment in hazardous fuels treatments, and support alignment of local wildfire management priorities with national priorities.