CSU engineers have developed a model that can predict how wildfire will impact a community, down to which buildings will burn.

Most wildfire mitigation studies have focused on fire in wildlands. Hussam Mahmoud, a civil and environmental engineering professor, and postdoctoral fellow Akshat Chulahwat have created the first model to predict how a fire would progress through a built environment.

“We’re able to predict the most probable path the fire will take and how vulnerable each home is relative to the neighboring homes,” Mahmoud said.

They tested their model on the 2018 Camp Fire and 2020 Glass Fire in California. The model predicted which buildings burned and which survived with 58%-64% accuracy. By adjusting how the model weighs certain factors that contribute to damage, the accuracy of the prediction of which buildings burned in the Camp Fire increased to 86%.

Models that incorporate both a community’s wildland and built environment features will give decision-makers the information needed to mitigate vulnerable areas.