Sustainable Infrastructure for Wildfire Resilience
Colleges: VCEA, CAS, CAHNRS, EFSCOM, CON
The challenges posed by increasing wildfire frequency and severity are complex and interdisciplinary by nature. Understanding how to prioritize and manage at-risk forests and communities as well as the cascading consequences of wildfire events is critical for protecting the health, function and sustainability of our region. WSU researchers are working to develop the needed infrastructure and strategies for Washington state communities and landscapes to be “fire resilient” so that we can reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfire and sustainably live with fire as it becomes a more frequent phenomenon. WSU strengths are particularly focused on addressing the risks, impacts, and solutions related to wildfire. The FireEarth project assesses forest and community vulnerability to wildfire in the Pacific Northwest developing modeling tools for predicting wildfire impacts. Environmental Engineers investigate the impact of wildfire on source water quality and implications for water treatment and finished water quality. They are also investigating the effects that fire has on the biological activity of microbes and fungi in forest ecosystems, impacts of which, for example, can lead to increases in the spread of antibiotic resistance in drinking water treatment plants. Geotechnical Engineers are developing a framework to quantify landslide susceptibility following wildfire. Researchers in the School of the Environment (SOE) examine post-fire recovery of forested landscapes and the social issues of surrounding controlled and uncontrolled wild-land fire. The Laboratory for Atmospheric Research (LAR) provides expertise from wildfire smoke monitoring and mapping to assessing indoor air quality impacts of fires. LAR’s activities merge measurements, modeling, and policy (e.g., NW-AIRQUEST consortium; methane emissions study collaborative with industry and environmental groups). LAR’s air quality forecast system, AIRPACT, incorporates information about real-time fires and provides short-term forecasts on smoke-related particulate matter in the air that is hazardous to human health.