THE PROBLEM

Wildland fires in Colorado and the western US are increasingly affecting developed areas, resulting in loss of life and property, disrupting livelihoods and economies, and exacting large financial costs. As wildland fires in the region are projected to increase in the coming decades, there is a need and opportunity to generate science-based solutions to this complex problem.

Flames surround a house Tuesday, Aug. 14, 2012, on a hillside above Bettas Road near Cle Elum, Wash. Wildland firefighters on-site advised that the house survived the fire. The fast-moving wildfire has burned 60 homes across nearly 40 square miles of central Washington grassland, timber and sagebrush. No injuries have been reported but more than 400 people have been forced to flee. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

HISTORY

To this end, the Center for Managing Wildland-Urban Interface Fire Risk (“WUI Center”) has been established in the Department of Forest and Rangeland Stewardship, Warner College of Natural Resources at Colorado State University. The WUI Center leverages the Department’s expertise in multiple areas of wildland fire science (e.g., fire behaviour, fuels management, fire policy and economics, community-based collaborative planning) to address the following issues:

 

MISSION

To develop, synthesize, and apply science-based solutions and products to address wildland-urban interface fire risks. The WUI Center promotes interdisciplinary approaches to knowledge generation and application, and collaboratively engages stakeholders and partners to learn, apply, and continuously adapt actions addressing WUI fire risk.

VISION

  • WUI residents and communities are adapted to coexist with wildfire as a natural occurrence
  • WUI residents and communities are proactive in addressing their fire hazards and risks
  • WUI residents and communities are able to mitigate the effects of fire on their lives and livelihoods
  • WUI residents and communities are well-informed of current scientific understandings of wildfire direct risks, hazards, and management impacts

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GOALS

Promoting collaborative learning and actions across fragmented land ownerships and multiple Jurisdictions
Managing WUI fire risk requires continuous learning and coordination on the part of
private landowners, local, state, and federal agencies to lower home ignition potential, develop effective emergency response capacity and actions, and maintain low fuel conditions around homes and communities. There is a need to better translate and combine evolving scientific understanding of these issues with real-world experience and constraints. There is also a need to foster learning from experiences to continuously improve effectiveness.

Advancing knowledge of the larger environment within which the WUI occurs
WUI development in Colorado and throughout the region exists within a larger environment. Historical legacies of land use and fire suppression have reshaped fire hazards and risks. Climate change is expected to result in more frequent, prolonged drought, higher average temperatures, and, therefore, potentially longer fire seasons and more frequent fires. There is a need to understand where and what fuel reduction and forest thinning treatments can achieve to produce win-win outcomes for the WUI and the broader environment.

Facilitate a proactive dialogue to explore potential land use and building material policy changes, and to understand trade-offs for different courses of action. Since 2010, WUI fires in Colorado alone have scorched over 1,054,256 acres, and burned over 1,260 homes resulting in $1.2 billion in insured losses. Post-fire runoff and erosion continue to exact financial costs to water providers, local governments, and private citizens. Given likely trends in land development and fire potential, this situation is likely to persist.
DIRECTOR

Co-Directors

  • Tony Cheng, Professor of Forest & Natural Resource Policy and Director, Colorado Forest Restoration Institute
  • Doug Rideout, Professor of Forest Economics and Director, WESTFIRE
  • Skip Smith, Department Head and Professor of Silviculture

Content Experts

Chad Hoffman, Assistant Professor of Fire Science

Advisory Committee

Mike Lester, Colorado State Forest Service
Rick Cooksey, United States Forest Service State and Private Forestry
Justin Whitesel, Colorado Division of Fire Prevention and Control
Mike Tombolato, Rocky Mountain Fire District
Dave Zader, City of Boulder Fire-Rescue
Jonas Feinstein, Natural Resource Conservation Service
Travis Griffen, Jefferson County
Doug Paul, Bureau of Land Management
Randy Johnson, Larkspur Fire
Paige Lewis, The Nature Conservancy

Coordinator: Chad Julian
Research Associate: Michael Caggiano