Fire and Flood Hazard Mitigation

Project Summary

The number of forest fires has increased dramatically over the past five years in western areas of the United States, due to both human and natural causes. Urban areas, such as the city of Phoenix, continue to increase in size and population, with a majority of the development occurring in rural areas that have burned, or are threatened by brush fires. As people move into these environments there is an increased risk of damage to human property and lives due to fires. These areas have experienced a number of recent brush fires that have been expensive to fight, and caused a considerable amount of property damage. The ability to predict and control fires is thus increasingly important as urban centers encroach upon rural lands. Remote sensing can be utilized to characterize fire scarred areas, and predict areas that have an increased risk for burning again in the future.

ASTER, Landsat ETM, TIMS, and SIR-C remote sensing data have been combined with GIS to characterize fire scars in the semi-arid urban area outside of Phoenix, Arizona. This data was used to quantify the relationship of fire scar age to vegetative recovery, and to determine the control of local topography on fire behavior.

Detailed topographic surveys, combined with sediment trap data, were used to examine differences in erosion between burned and unburned catchments. These results have implications for potential flooding risks due to removal of vegetative cover by fires. By combining remote sensing data with a GIS database, and through comparison with geomorphic/sedimentological investigations, this work may permit city officials and urban planners to better calculate potential risks for both future fire and flood hazards within the region.



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Page last updated:
Wednesday, 28-May-2003 17:03