Biophysical and human characteristics of wildfire ignition in the shortgrass prairie region of Texas



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Human and biophysical variables which influence occurrence and seasonality of reported wildfires in the shortgrass prairie region of Texas are relatively undefined. Stepwise logistic regression was applied to Texas Fire Reporting system data within the shortgrass prairie region from 2001 to 2010 to assess the relative importance of human and biophysical factors. Wildfire seasonality was assessed by comparing months with respect to number and size of reported wildfires. Eighty-five percent of the total area that burned during the study period burned between January and June; January through March had the most reported wildfires; August through October had the fewest reported wildfires. Of the known reported wildfire causes, humans caused 79% of reported wildfires in the shortgrass prairie region of the Southern Great Plains in Texas. Of this 79%, three categories were most common. These three categories are equipment use-related reported wildfires (36%), debris burning (24%), and smoking (10%). Logistic regression indicated that the likelihood of wildfire ignition is spatially related to human population factors. Distances to a road and population change from 2000 to 2009 were the most important factors affecting reported wildfire occurrence. Understanding and public support for proper management of fuels in this fire-prone system is a necessity. This study has identified several important human components of reported wildfires that should be considered during roadside management as well as urban, suburban and rural planning.



Wildfire, Shortgrass prairie, Southern Great Plains, Wildfire season, Reported wildfire ignition