Wildland Fire Assessment
Wildfires are a fundamental component of most natural ecosystems in the western United States. Frequent fires sculpted this landscape and often reset the state-of-the-environment to historical conditions. However, historical fire suppression practices, which allowed for excessive fuel accumulations and the proliferation of non-native plant species, have modified these ecosystems so that modern wildfires are more frequent, widespread and catastrophic than ever before. Extended periods of drought and continued extension of development into fire-prone areas, particularly in the western United States, has further increased the probability and severity of major wildfires.
Major wildfires lead to numerous environmental changes including loss of vegetation and ground cover, alteration of soil properties, and the reduction of hillside stability. These factors also can change a watershed’s hydrologic response to rain events and can potentially result in post-fire flooding, debris flows, and landslides.
Recently, claims for damages sought and recovered by the government for wildfires have included “intangible” environmental damages, such as loss of public access, loss of scenic views, and damage to historic sites and or impacts to threatened and/or endangered species.
Exponent is skilled in the evaluation of wildfires and their impacts, including geologic and hydrologic hazards, and the ecological and water quality impacts that a fire has within and downstream of the burned areas, evaluating the hazards resulting from wildfires and providing remedial solutions tailored to the local site conditions. We have developed a retrospective approach to associate monetary damages with the pre-fire environmental conditions that existed in particular forest ecosystems.
Some of our services include:
- Evaluation of burn limits, burn intensity, and degree of vegetative recovery
- Air photo analysis
- Remote sensing analysis
- Land use and flood hazard studies
- Sediment yield analysis
- Geologic mapping
- Debris flow and landslide hazard analysis
- Natural resources damage assessment
- Evaluation of ecosystem impacts
- Evaluation of water quality impacts
- Determining agricultural losses
- Economic assessment of damages from wildland fires.