Paper No. 6
Presentation Time: 10:15 AM


MARROQUIN, Selva M., Medford, MA 02155,

Recent destructive wildfires in Colorado have prompted the creation of a fire risk assessment map using ArcGIS analyses that would evaluate the need for mitigation around paleontological resources in the park. The drought conditions in Teller County and surrounding regions have made fire a likely risk to paleontological resources at Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument. Weather conditions from mid-May to the end of August are hot, dry, and include violent lightning storms that are likely to spark wildfires. In 2012, extreme fire risk led to intense fire mitigation efforts around essential structures within the park.

The factors that were considered to be the main contributors to the spread of wildfire were terrain, weather, fuels, and unburned piles near previously mitigated areas. The steepness of slopes, drainages, and gullies were taken into consideration when determining terrain risk factors. Steeper slopes are known to spread fire more quickly, and wind is likely to follow drainage and gully areas or to channel through saddles along ridgelines. Wetland areas and solar radiation were taken into account when examining weather risk factors. Certain exposures within the park receive more solar radiation, due to slope aspect or vegetation cover, which results in drier material that exacerbates localized drought effects. Wetland areas are less likely to contribute to the spread of fire as ground material is wet. A previously created fuel models map was used to determine fuel fire risk in different areas of the park. Vegetation and wind speeds were considered in the creation of the fuel models map. A separate raster map was created for each of the four considered factors. Every cell within each map was given a score based on its fire susceptibility. A score of zero indicated an area of low susceptibility; a score of five indicated an area of high risk. The four maps were then compiled into a final overall risk assessment map. The map was then used to determine which areas of the park were most susceptible to fire. The resulting map showed areas of the park where fossiliferous units and paleontological sites were at a higher fire risk. This will provide a guide to show where mitigation should occur in the park in order to reduce future risk of fire to paleontological sites.