Fire Threat Potential

The Indicator

Forest fires become of particular concern when they have the potential to take lives or to damage significant economic investments in homes or businesses. As urban types of development have spread into ever more far-flung parts of the state, particularly to areas where fire-fighting infrastructure may be lacking or access difficult, this potential has grown.

As portrayed in this indicator, fire threat is modeled to reflect six important variables: Fuel hazard is based upon the amount and type of vegetation within a subwatershed; risk of fire relates both to the dryness of the vegetative fuel and to presence of human activities that could ignite a fire. Aspect is based on the direction faced by slopes, with south- and west-facing slopes tending to be much drier than north- or east-facing slopes; slope itself affects the rate at which a fire spreads due to the chimney effect of steep slopes. Sensitivity is a measure of public perception of losses that would be caused by a fire; fire protection resources reflect road accessibility in a watershed and the location and availability of fire-fighting personnel and equipment.

Indicator Use

This indicator suggests areas in Maryland where particular vigilance may be called for in detecting fires at an early stage and where property owners should be instructed in preventive measures. It may also influence the distribution of state personnel and logistics for fighting wildfires.

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