Southern California Wildfire Risk Scenario Project

Science Center Objects

Every year, wildfires devastate the landscapes of Southern California from Los Angeles to San Diego. How has a higher number of human-caused fires affected fire hazards and threats to resources? WERC’s Dr. Jon Keeley and collaborators are analyzing fire patterns across the state to help cities balance their management of fire hazards and natural resources.

A BURNING QUESTION

Since the mid-20th century, Southern California has seen one or more massive wildfires each decade, with an average of 500 homes destroyed per year. Despite increased funding for fire suppression and vegetation modification activities, fire impacts are becoming worse with each successive decade. In 2001-2010 alone, the region saw nearly 10,000 residential structures damaged or destroyed. Economic losses continue.

The Southern California Wildfire Risk Scenario Project is led by WERC fire ecologist Dr. Jon Keeley. Together with an international team of landscape ecologists, biologists, geographers, and economists, Dr. Keeley is working on a statewide, historical study that relates how ignition sources have affected fire losses. In addition, the team is using remote sensing evidence of changes in plant cover to study the impacts of repeat fires on natural ecosystems. These changes can affect both fuel loads and natural resources. Current work is focused on extending these studies to other parts of North America.