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Are You at Risk from Wildfire?

Richburg, S.C. - Fire scientists at the IBHS Research Center recreate an ember storm in the lab's large test chamber. This facility is the first in the world capable of subjecting full-scale buildings to realistic wildfire conditions. (Photo: 2011 Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety)

Richburg, S.C. - Fire scientists at the IBHS Research Center recreate an ember storm in the lab's large test chamber. This facility is the first in the world capable of subjecting full-scale buildings to realistic wildfire conditions. (Photo courtesy of the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety.)

This post is part of the Science Tuesday feature series on the USDA blog. Check back each week as we showcase stories and news from the USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.

On March 24, Forest Service scientist Jack Cohen served as a technical expert for the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety’s Wildfire Demonstration Day in Richburg, South Carolina.  This demonstration aimed to highlight home ignition risks and ways to protect property in wildfire prone areas, especially in the wildland-urban interface.  Jack’s research on the Structure Ignition Assessment Model served as the basis for this demonstration.  

The model is a tool that will allow the evaluation of the current ignition potential of homes and the determination of what steps can be taken to reduce the risk of ignition from a wildfire. The Institute hopes to help property owners minimize their potential risks by identifying vulnerable areas on their structures and developing methods to make them more resistant to wildfire.

2 Responses to “Are You at Risk from Wildfire?”

  1. redped says:

    Are you making a study to create mandated wildfire insurance on the structure? And this has to do with agriculture(home wildfire studies)just exactly how? Enlighten me please~!

  2. Stanley says:

    Redped: The USDA is the parent agency for the US Forest Service which, as one of its major land management roles, is responsible for fuels mitigation and suppression (i.e. wildland firefighting). More often than not these days the agency has to deal with Wildland Urban Interface situations or “WUI,” just another confusing and fancy term applied to structures catching on fire in a forested landscape. So the labs (as described above) are constantly looking for ways in which homebuilders and owners can both build and safeguard their existing structures to better resist wildfire. Of course it would be ideal if no one would ever build in these areas, but that wouldn’t be fair, and plus… that’s where my house is. I live there because I want to be in the woods, I just have to make sure and clear the fuels a fair distance around my structure – a distance which was actually in-part determined by the labs mentioned above. My job in wildland fire suppression and prevention helps communicate these distances (to simplify it all) to homeowners and the general public. This work is also carried on at state, county and city levels and it’s all based on research similar to what you see above. You might also be interested in going to the Missoula Technology and Development Center (MTDC) site: http://www.fs.fed.us/eng/techdev/mtdc.htm and look at their research projects and accomplishments. Much of the research conducted is performed in order to determine just what requirements are valid and legitimate insofar as what insurance companies require of homeowners. Or to at least apply some scientific methodology to situations and collect measurable data. I’m guessing it will shed a bit more light on the link between the USDA and insurance companies.

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