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Wildland-urban interface in California using remote sensing data

Citation

Li, Shu et al. (2022), Wildland-urban interface in California using remote sensing data, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.7280/D1B98J

Abstract

Due to the mixed distribution of buildings and vegetation, wildland-urban interface (WUI) areas are characterized by complex fuel distributions and geographical environments. The behavior of wildfires occurring in the WUI often leads to severe hazards and significant damage to man-made structures. Therefore, WUI areas warrant more attention during the wildfire season. Due to the ever-changing dynamic nature of California’s population and housing, the update frequency and resolution of WUI maps that are currently used can no longer meet the needs and challenges of wildfire management and resource allocation for suppression and mitigation efforts. Recent developments in remote sensing technology and data analysis algorithms pose new opportunities for improving WUI mapping methods. WUI areas in California were directly mapped using building footprints extracted from remote sensing data by Microsoft along with the fuel vegetation cover from the LANDFIRE dataset in this study. To accommodate the new type of datasets, we developed a threshold criteria for mapping WUI based on statistical analysis, as opposed to using more ad-hoc criteria as used in previous mapping approaches. This method removes the reliance on census data in WUI mapping, and does not require the calculation of housing density. Moreover, this approach designates the adjacent areas of each building with large and dense parcels of vegetation as WUI, which can not only refine the scope and resolution of the WUI areas to individual buildings, but also avoids zoning issues and uncertainties in housing density calculation. Besides, the new method has the capability of updating the WUI map in real-time according to the operational needs. Therefore, this method is suitable for local governments to map local WUI areas, as well as formulating detailed wildfire emergency plans, evacuation routes, and management measures.

Funding

Office of the President, University of California, Award: LFR-20-653572