Wildland-Urban Interface Fires: Overview and Research Needs
William E. Mell, Samuel Manzello, Alexander Maranghides, Ronald G. Rehm
Wildfires that spread into wildland-urban interface (WUI) communities present a significant challenge on a number of fronts. In the United States the WUI accounts for a significant portion of wildfire suppression and risk mitigation costs. Research on fire behavior has traditionally focused mostly on spatially uniform wildland fuels, not the diverse fuels in the WUI: structures, wildland vegetation (treated and untreated), and residential vegetation. As a result, the methodologies currently used to reduce a WUI community s risk to wildfires are not the product of a coordinated comprehensive scientific based effort to understand fire spread through realistic WUI fuels. Risk reduction practices are focused on fuel treatments either in wildland fuels or residential fuels, not a comprehensive approach that accounts for fire behavior in both fuels. Overall, these fuel treatments have not been standardized or scientifically tested. A long term, collaborative, research effort is required to address this problem. The outcome of such an effort would be proven fuel treatment techniques for wildland and residential fuels, risk assessment strategies, fire behavior models, and test methods for fire resistant building designs and materials.