Urban Foresters Utilize Technology to Help Fire Departments Preempt Wildfire by Identifying High-Risk Hot Spots
Fire Departments Employ New Prevention Strategies to Become More Efficient
ENCINITAS, Calif., Aug. 8 /PRNewswire/ -- With the arrival of fire season, fire management professionals are hard at work responding to emergency calls, preparing for inevitable wildfires, or positioning themselves on the front lines fighting blazes. More recently, however, fire departments are turning to urban foresters and technology to augment their arsenal against wildfire. Foresters, with their technological toolkit, identify high-risk areas with dangerous, overgrown vegetation or narrow buffer zones and develop targeted plans for reducing these hazards. The City of Del Mar Fire Department is on the forefront of this trend. With the help of urban foresters and state-of-the-art geographic information system (GIS) based modeling software, fire professionals can analyze hazard areas to clearly identify high-risk zones and prepare an attack plan to remove hazardous fuels, lower potential threats to persons and property, and provide firefighters with "defensible space" with which they can more effectively control a fire's spread. While better known for its beautiful beaches and quaint downtown, Del Mar also has narrow and steep brush-covered canyons located next to multi-million dollar homes. "Fire prevention is a science," said David Ott, Del Mar Fire Department's fire chief. "It's not about clearing hundreds of feet of vegetation and facing environmental consequences; it's about thorough research to identify target areas and allocating an appropriate level of resources to mitigate risks." Unlike the Del Mar Fire Department's previous plans that called for broad prevention efforts, this new technology shows precisely where to target fuel volume and fuel continuity reduction efforts. With this information, Del Mar's crews now strategically reduce wildfire hazards while maintaining soil stability, sensitive species' habitats, aesthetics and resident privacy. "Fire prevention officers are familiar with the high-risk areas," said Michael Huff, urban forestry manager with Dudek, an Encinitas-based engineering and environmental consulting firm that works with numerous fire departments including Del Mar. "We combine their knowledge with our research and analysis, mapping this in GIS databases and running computerized fire behavior modeling programs. This output graphically represents high-risk areas for use in planning and designing environmentally-friendly fuel reduction efforts as well as in educating the community and decision-makers." In Del Mar, for example, it became evident that some ridge-top homes and primary evacuation routes did not have enough buffer area to reduce fire intensity to levels that would allow fire fighters a safe zone to defend homes and evacuate residents during a wildfire emergency. Dudek's field assessments and fire behavior modeling identified priority areas to receive targeted brush removal. Once completed, fire risk was reduced and defensible space was increased. As an added benefit, fire departments find the graphical representations assist in communications with city officials and community members. "These visuals are easy-to-understand," added Huff. "It makes the threat very apparent to the average citizen." This helps fire departments secure grants and additional city funds to continue their efforts in maintaining safe communities. About Dudek Dudek is a leading Southern California-based engineering and environmental consulting corporation that creatively solves regulatory challenges for municipal agencies and major land owners. The firm helps clients plan, design, construct and manage successful infrastructure and environmental projects that balance regulatory mandates and technical requirements within financial and scheduling goals. Founded in 1980, Dudek is headquartered in Encinitas in San Diego County with offices in Orange, Riverside and Santa Barbara counties. For more information, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Contact: Christine Clinton Dudek 760.479.4275 email@example.com
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