ASCE Denver Branch Meeting - A New Paradigm for Assessing Wildfire Risk to Communities

Thursday, March 18, 2021 - 04:00 PM - Thursday, March 18, 2021 - 09:30 PM

Recent wildfire events, in the United States (U.S.) and around the world, have resulted in thousands of homes destroyed and many lives lost, leaving communities and policy makers, once again, with the question as to how to manage wildfire risk. Given the current trend of wildfires and global warming, the risk of wildfires to communities is expected to increase. Accordingly, focus needs to be shifted towards minimizing potential losses to communities by making them resilient. An understanding of the factors that contribute to community vulnerability and risk is essential in developing effective mitigation measures at the community level. In this presentation, a graph-based model to assess wildfire risk for communities is formulated. The model is formulated to incorporate three modes of propagation – Convection, Radiation and Embers between individual households in a community. In addition, the model incorporates the effect of passive fire mitigation measures and effect of wildland boundaries on overall community risk. Four different communities across the U.S. are assessed using the developed model for the duration of the fire season to communicate the importance of community level analysis. It is shown that community risk is closely related to wind speed and direction, pattern of surrounding wildland vegetation and buildings layout. The results suggest a need for exploring unique fire mitigation measures for communities independently based on individual community characteristics.


Hussam Mahmoud is an Associate Professor and the George T. Abell Professor in Infrastructure in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Colorado State University (CSU). He is Director of the Structural Laboratory at CSU and the academic advisor for the AISC Student Steel Bridge Competition. He obtained his BSc and MSc in civil engineering from the University of Minnesota and his PhD from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC). Prior to pursuing his Ph.D., he was the manager of the NEES Earthquake Laboratory at the UIUC. Dr. Mahmoud has authored over 230 publications and has given more than 100 presentations including 75 invited talks at national and international conferences. He has chaired and served on numerous technical committees, including the ASCE Committees on fire protection and on Multi-hazard Mitigation. He is the recipient of various awards, including the American Institute of Steel Construction early faculty career award, the R. J. Dexter Memorial Lecture award, the Air Force summer faculty fellowship award, and he has been invited to various U.S. National Academies Frontiers symposia. His research has received media coverage through citations and interviews in numerous venues, including Nature Climate Change, Smithsonian Magazine, the Independent, The Economist, CBS Denver, CBS Egypt, Business Insider, and CNN.


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