Draft California Fire Code Includes NIST Tool to Evaluate Wildfire Hazard

Draft California Fire Code Includes NIST Tool to Evaluate Wildfire Hazard

Credit: B. Hayes/NIST

Severe wildfire disasters are often the product of numerous factors — vegetation, drought, a lack of firefighting resources, and many others — coalescing. 

Identifying which factors are the most important is not always a simple task for local leaders assessing their community’s risk for damaging wildfires. And the lack of a standard approach means different municipalities employ different methods of evaluating wildfire hazards, making relative comparisons between communities a challenge.    

A solution may lie in a community fire hazard evaluation framework developed by researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) that is featured in a draft of an update to the California Fire Code (pages 187-194), now available for public comment through Oct. 18, 2021. By specifying high-priority information for community leaders to collect and consolidate, the framework will serve as a tool for improving planning and emergency response. If applied broadly, it would also help officials at the county and state level gain a better idea of which communities are most in need of support. 

The need for a common approach for assessing what experts call wildland-urban interface, or WUI, fire risk was perhaps never more clear than in the aftermath of the 2018 Camp Fire. By nearly leveling the town of Paradise and wreaking havoc in nearby communities, this perfect storm of a fire obtained the title of both deadliest and most destructive wildfire in California’s history.

A multitude of variables affect the severity of a wildfir ..

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