BERKELEY -- To assess the risk of wildfire damage to their houses and communities, Spanish-speaking homeowners can use a new interactive Web site designed by University of California, Berkeley, fire researchers.
At http://firecenter.berkeley.edu, residents can find a questionnaire in Spanish. By answering questions about their home's construction and landscaping, participants can get a science-based assessment of their house's vulnerability to wildfire and suggestions for reducing their risk. The same tool is also available on the site in English.
Californians can also type in a specific address to see if they live in a region at risk for wildfires and obtain information about fires that have occurred in the area since 1950. For people living in fire-prone areas, tips and resources for recovering from wildfire have recently been added to the site.
"What's new about these tools is that homeowners and community officials can get an individualized assessment of a specific building's fire risk based upon such factors as the material used in their roof construction or the density of vegetation near the structure," said Max Moritz, UC Berkeley Cooperative Extension wildland fire specialist and lead researcher for the fire toolkit project. "The toolkit then provides immediate feedback that helps identify areas where people would get the biggest payoff in mitigation." "There are no other sites like this in Spanish that enable people to get suggestions for reducing fire risk that are targeted to their own homes," added Faith Kearns, associate director of the Center for Fire Research and Outreach at UC Berkeley. The researchers reviewed a number of the most widely used fire hazard ranking methods -- each dealing with different risk factors including dense vegetation, installation of attic vent screens, or the width of the roads leading to the homes -- as well as the latest wildfire research to create one comprehensive risk assessment tool. In addition, the researchers are using geographic information systems and Google Maps to display fire hazard information.