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.
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.