Several types of communication related issues were highlighted during stakeholder conversations. 1) Fire operation communications during fire events could be improved, largely due to the diversity of equipment, networks, and on the ground conditions. 2) There is a lack of communication between wildfire professionals, community residents, and policy-makers regarding realistic expectations for treatment effectiveness and fire impacts. 3) Communication and collaboration between land and fire management agencies could be improved during the development phase of landscape scale planning and treatment design. 4) There is a need to improve the way wildfire professionals communicate expectations with the public, media, and political leaders.


Photo Credit: Mike Caggiano


Spatial data and information can inform and improve the effectiveness of landscape scale planning and wildfire response in the WUI. Fire managers highlighted the need for accessible spatial data on operational features, treatment locations, and values at risk (roads, linear features, water sources, structure locations, mechanical and prescribed fire treatments, and previous wildland fires). Currently, this information is collected and utilized inconsistently across jurisdictions, and where data does exist, it may not be readily available. There is a need is to compile and maintain the spatial data for fire operations and wildfire mitigation planning, and this should be stored in a central location, accessible to fire managers and practitioners.

Three members of the Washington Department of Natural Resources make their way into a flaming patch of woods at the scene of a forest fire Monday, Aug. 13, 2012, near Cle Elum, Wash. By 8 PM, the fire had consumed over 2800 acres of land and residents from all over the county were in the process of being evacuated. (AP Photo/The Seattle Times, Jordan Stead) MAGS OUT; NO SALES; SEATTLEPI.COM OUT; MANDATORY CREDIT MANDATORY CREDIT TO: JORDAN STEAD/THE SEATTLE TIMES.


Currently, local, state, and federal programs are implementing a variety of treatments in the WUI. There is uncertainty in how to design effective treatments that result in appropriate outcomes during fires. Specific questions included: how should fuel treatments adjacent to structures be graded into landscape-scale ecological treatments, how to evaluate treatment effectiveness, and how to incorporate ecological principals into WUI fuel treatments. Most stakeholders do not have time to research current science and read the literature that currently exists.


Stakeholders were asked about current planning tools that they use and their adequacy for informing treatments and fire management applications. Complexity of mixed-conifer cover types, uncertainties with lodgepole pine, and possible contradictions in new research on dry-conifer systems have contributed to this uncertainty. Planning tools to assist with treatment design, prescribed burning, fire weather prediction, and smoke management could help build local capacity.

Defensible space zones


Recent fires have highlighted the need to understand the full range of economic, social, and ecological costs of wildfires in Colorado. Stakeholders who directly experienced large fires expressed the need for this information, and felt that a full accounting of costs would provide critical information to land managers and policy makers. These costs include: reduced property value and tax base, post fire flooding, watershed impacts, damage to utility and road infrastructure, and health care costs. Suppression costs and initial rehabilitation costs are largely funded by the federal government, but other related costs continue to accrue for years and are shouldered by local governments, fire protection districts, and water providers. There is a need to differentiate costs incurred from wildfires to serve as a tool for cost benefit analysis and to inform decision making regarding mitigation efforts.

Two of the hundreds of totally destroyed homes are seen in the aftermath of the Waldo Canyon fire in Colorado Springs, Colorado June 28, 2012. Cooler temperatures and lighter winds helped firefighters on Thursday in the battle against the fire, which has destroyed hundreds of homes and forced more than 35,000 people to flee. REUTERS/Rick Wilking (UNITED STATES - Tags: DISASTER) ORG XMIT: CSP13