This week, many large media platforms ran front-page or lead stories on the launch of Fire Factor, a new wildfire prediction tool by First Street Foundation that lets property owners look up their predicted wildfire risk based on address. Each property in the contiguous US was assigned a Fire Factor score on a scale of 1 to 10 based on the probability that a fire will reach that address over the next 30 years. Spatial Informatics Group (SIG), along with other members of the Pyregence Consortium, REAX Engineering and Eagle Rock Analytics, played a big role in the science behind the predictions.
The Fire Factor tool is designed to raise awareness of the increasing probability of wildfire in many areas and to help people prepare for a future that includes more wildfire. SIG and Pyregence team members used cutting edge computing technology to update and modify outdated fuels datasets using the closest to real-time, on-the-ground information available, as well as integrating weather time-series and climate change scenarios to predict future fire conditions. The fuels and weather datasets were used as inputs to a probabilistic fire behavior model, along with historical ignition locations, to generate the behavior of tens of millions of fires and compute fire likelihood and intensity for 2021 and 2051. The First Street Foundation used these outputs in combination with the specific property characteristics at each address to ‘score’ on a property-by-property basis resulting in the 1 to 10 Fire Factor.
As anticipated, many people who followed the media links to the Fire Factor site were surprised at the results when they plugged in their addresses. Often, perceptions of wildfire risks are based on past experience. Many people have never worried about wildfires reaching their homes, though in recent years wildfires have ignited in historically-unlikely locations. We know our world is changing. The goal of the Fire Factor is to generate awareness of wildfire risk and allow the public to prepare for changing environmental conditions.
SIG is extremely proud of our partnership with First Street Foundation and our contribution to this groundbreaking project. The Fire Factor data will become more valuable with time, through additional datasets, refined algorithms and of course community involvement. We encourage you to visit the First Street website to read the media excerpts and experience the Fire Factor tool.
If you are interested in an overview of the methodology visit First Street Foundation’s methodology simplified for an explainer video and summary.
For additional information about SIG’s involvement in this project, please contact Teal-Richards-Dimitrie, SIG FireFactor Project Manager