Within the Fire Risk Reduction in Communities Program at NIST, projects seek (through laboratory experiments, field measurements, and computer modeling) to improve our understanding of WUI fire dynamics and structure ignition mechanisms. This measurement science will support standard test methods for building materials and assemblies, guidelines for structural design and residential landscaping, and guidelines for community planning. This project will improve WUI building and fire standards and codes using the results of the science-based WUI projects, including adoption by model building and fire codes.
Objective: By 2014, assess and integrate the current state-of-the-art risk reduction tools and practices into model building codes and standards for fires at the wildland-urban interface.
What is the new technical idea? The new technical idea is to develop national level codes and standards strategy based on mapping zones of fire exposure severity within a WUI community. This fire exposure severity zoning system or exposure scale concept includes flame impingement, thermal radiative flux, and ember exposures and allows development of science-based performance metrics and more representative test methodology for components, buildings, and communities. Since the fire severity scale is based on the exposure to flames and embers and not on specific vegetation or materials, the exposure scale will be broadly applicable across WUI communities. More representative metrics and test methods will allow new materials, designs, and technologies to be evaluated under more realistic conditions. As building codes and standards incorporate a fire exposure mapping system, the fire resistance of WUI communities will increase in a manner analogous to the use of the Richter Scale for increasing the earthquake resistance of buildings and communities. Construction in each fire exposure zone will meet the appropriate codes and standards. Established communities in each fire exposure zone would need to consider building retrofit and community and parcel landscaping guidance developed by NIST to address WUI fire hazards.
There is also a need to develop a better understanding of the relationship between the cost a community pays for fire protection, the level of protection afforded, and the losses resulting from a WUI fire. For example, if a community were to require a 30 m spacing between structures, what is the economic cost to the community? How much additional protection does a 30 m spacing provide? In the case of a fire spreading by thermal radiation, 30 m spacing may increase the resistance to fire spread by a factor of 10. On the other hand, in the case of fire spread by ember ignition, 30 m spacing may provide little additional fire protection. Exposure to flames and embers must be considered in the development of metrics to assess the performance of individual structures and the community during a WUI fire.
Quantifying the cost of providing the current level of fire protection, understanding the losses resulting from WUI fires, and using performance metrics to assess the effectiveness of current designs, materials, and technologies will allow the development of science-based cost-effective WUI fire mitigation strategies.
What is the research plan? The primary focus of the research effort will be the development of a national strategy for WUI codes and standards, including model building codes to reduce losses in WUI fires. The foundation of the approach will be a nationally applicable WUI community fire-exposure zoning system, WUI performance metrics, and building and fire codes.
WUI Technical Solution Implementation Guide
The guide will serve two purposes. First, the guide will provide a centralized repository of all WUI fire research technical findings. Secondly, the guide will establish a framework that will identify the gaps in WUI hazard reduction solutions that are implementable and relevant to the WUI problem. The guide will be revised every two years. The results of experiments, analysis, and post-fire data collection and analysis will be essential to the development of this guide.
Suppression of Wildland Fires versus Hardening WUI Communities
WUI Fire Data in the Disaster and Failure Studies (DFS) Data Repository
Evaluate the economics of community-based fire mitigation
 Section of contiguous land with its structures, driveways, and vegetation; may be single home or group of adjoining homes.
A WUI Fire Research Needs Workshop was conducted on August 15-16, 2012 in Boulder, CO. Participants included International Code Council, National Fire Protection Association, US Forest Service, Insurance Institute for Building and Home Safety, US Fire Administration, California Department of Forestry and Fire Prevention (CALFIRE) International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF), International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC), National Wildfire Coordinating Group (NWCG), industry, fire service, authorities having jurisdiction (AHJ), and San Diego State University.
Maranghides, A., and Mell, W., “Creating a Framework for Addressing the National Wildland Urban Interface Problem Using the E-Scale,” to be submitted to Fire Engineering (in WERB review, June 2011).
Developed framework for assessing community scale fire risk. Bryner and Johnsson, "Framework For Assessing Community-Scale Fire Risk," NIST Technical Note, 2012, in preparation.
Butry, D.T., J.P. Prestemon, K.L. Abt, and R. Sutphen. 2010. “Economic Optimization of Wildfire Intervention Activities.” International Journal of Wildland Fire 19: 659-672.
Butry, D.T., D.S. Thomas, G.H. Donovan, and P. Lavappa. “The Role of Building Density in Wildland-Urban Interface Fires.” (in Review).
Thomas, D.S., and D.T. Butry. “High Fire-Frequency Wildland-Urban Interface Areas.” Journal of Forestry, 2012. (in Review).
Economic model of community-based mitigation accounting for the spatial spillover of individual homeowner mitigation efforts, and construction of a GIS data library to facilitate WUI community wildland fire risk analysis (Butry, Thomas, & Lavappa).
Standards and Codes:
This project will focus on hardening communities that are exposed to WUI fires by incorporating the exposure scale into building codes and standards including 2012 International Wildland-Urban Interface Code (ICC), 2009 Wildland Urban Building Code, California Chapter 7A Building Code, 2013 Standard for Reducing Structure Ignition Hazards from Wildland Fire (NFPA 1144). Researchers are members of and participate on Fire/Performance/Wildland-Urban Interface Committee, FI PC WU –ICC (Bryner) and Technical Committee on Forest and Rural Fire Protection (Maranghides), Quantification of Exterior Fire Exposures, ASTM E05.14 (Manzello). The economic model will be incorporated into NFPA 1144 Committee on Forest and Rural Fire Protection to implement the use of the economic decision support tool as a standard method facilitating community risk assessment and disaster planning. The strategic roadmap and workshop proceedings also provide documentation of the WUI codes and standards strategy.
 WUI fires is not univesally used to describe fire in wildland-urban interface communities. This reference uses wildland fire within municipal jurisdictions instead of WUI fires.
 Approach used Risk f(Vulnerability x Loss or Consequences x Threat) and Framework incorporates three components: 1) Exposure to Hazard, 2) Response of Structure/Community, and 3) Designs to Mitigate Risk
 “Reduced Risk of Fire in Buildings and Communities: A Strategic Roadmap to Prioritize and Guide Research,” NIST Special Publication 1130, April 2012.
 NIST Workshop on Wildland-Urban Interface Fire Research Needs, August 15-16, 2012, Boulder, CO, Draft Proceeding 9/2012.
Start Date:October 1, 2011
Lead Organizational Unit:el
Related Programs and Projects:
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