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Utah Fire Assessment Project

Published Aug 18, 2010

Levels of concern about wildfire ranging from low (green) to high (red) based on a combination of population density, past fire occurrence and vegetation.

The Utah Fire Assessment Project used GAP land cover data to help identify general hazard areas at a state-wide level for fire management. The assessment defined, and then ranked risks, values, and hazards and assigned a final analysis rating based on a combination of these factors. Risk, defined as the potential for fire occurrence, was based upon historical fire occurrence, fire size, and ignition source. Values, also called “social concerns” were based on features to be protected. Hazard was defined as areas with the potential for extreme fire behavior based upon present vegetation. The vegetation map was produced from modified Utah GAP Analysis data. The original 36 GAP vegetation types were combined into 16 associations based on similar fire behavior and resistance to control. These 16 associations were further grouped into four hazard level ratings. These hazard categories were grouped together based on similar fire behavior characteristics. The assessment was based upon overstory vegetation present. It provides no information about dead and down fuels or understory vegetation. Final analysis of these categories provided a coarse scale, statewide assessment of areas of concern.

This analysis identifies potential areas with a serious fire threat as well as areas where detailed interagency planning and tactical analyses and treatment may be needed. These efforts indicate areas of Southern Utah that are at risk and are suitable for fuel treatments.

The Fire Assessment promotes efficient, safe management of the fires by helping managers to:

* Rapidly identify areas that may require additional tactical planning.

* Access a common data base for interagency planning.

* Work together to better define priorities and improve emergency response.

* Develop refined analysis of complex landscape and fire situations using GIS and GPS.

* Increase communication with local residents to address community needs.

Assessment Objectives

The purpose of the Fire Assessment process is to:

* Identify the potential for serious fires within the state.

* Identify general areas within the state where more detailed inter-agency planning may be needed.

* Provide a model for more detailed analysis on smaller (local) scales.

* Prioritize those areas where tactical analyses/treatment may be necessary.

* Provide a visual display of fire concerns within the state of Utah to support fire management funding.

* Communicate wildland fire management concerns to Utah publics.

The Result

This process, called the Utah Statewide Fire Assessment, provides managers with a strategic basis for broad, regional scale programmatic direction, particularly with respect to fire suppression activities, to improve public safety and reduce risks. This model is being refined by the Southern Utah Fuels Management Demonstration Project with the integration of finer scale data.


Homer, C.G., R.D. Ramsey, T.C. Edwards, Jr., and A. Falconer. 1997. Land cover-type modeling using multi-scene Thematic Mapper mosaic. Photgrammetric Engineering and Remote Sensing 63:59-67.

Baldwin, B., 2003. Catastrophic Wildfire Hazard Assessment in Pinyon-Juniper Woodlands Utilizing a Managerial Paradigm. MS Thesis, Utah State University, Logan.

Wimmer, Sheldon; Shive, John C.; Sheffey, Jack. 2000. Utah statewide fire assessment. Proceedings Crossing the Millennium: Integrating Spatial Technologies and Ecological Principles for a New Age in Fire Management. Joint Fire Science Conference and Workshop; Volume 1. Boise, Idaho, 1999 June 15-17. 298 p.

Ryan, K.C., 2001, Southern Utah fuels management demonstration project study plan, Version 4, USFS Fire Sciences Lab

Learn more

Read: Modeling the Effects of Fuel Treatments for the Southern Utah Fuels Management Demonstration Project (PDF, 72.71)