Students at Hedgesville High School working cooperatively with EPCF and WVDOF have completed Level 1 (L1) Wildfire Risk Assessments of five communities in West Virginia. The L1 system developed by the Minnesota DNR Firewise Project allowed the students to rate a home’s defensible space using 2003 SAMB aerial photography accessed via the Internet. Using this system, students assessed over 2,000 homes in five West Virginia communities.
GIS modeling techniques were applied to the student-collected data to assess overall community risk. The Density Surface Model (DSM) allows the accurate visualization of the concentration of risk within the community based on the number of homes and their defensible space rating. The highest risk neighborhoods “Hot Spots” were identified by this analysis.
Students at Hedgeville H.S. participated in five Field trips to “Hot Spots” in The Woods Resort identified by DSM maps. Students were instructed on how to use West Virginia’s Level 2 (L2) Wildfire Home Hazard Assessment system. Over 700 homes were rated using the L2’s two dozen criteria as conditions permitted and GPS units accurately located houses, spatially tagging each data record.
The EPCF worked with members of the administration of HHS to bring the MNDNR and its MAGE model to HHS. The MNDNR program has been adapted to meet all WVDOE curriculum standards. This program fits nicely with the recently announced “21st Century Schools that Work” program by the WVDOE, with HHS being one of the sixteen schools selected to be a participant in this program. HHS will be first school in the state of WV to help establish the model of the West Virginia Alliance for Geographic Education (WVAGE) program. The program model being put forward by the EPCF and the WVDOF and developed at HHS will be the model utilized by others when it is moved to other school districts in the state of West Virginia sometime in the future. The EPCF has been working closely with HHS Principal Don Dellinger, Assistant Principal Ron Lyons and science teacher Sun Schroyer from the planning to implementation of the Firewise in the Classroom Project. The WVAGE program initiative at HHS will not only familiarize the students to GIS and GPS technologies but give them hands on experience with the technologies. The Firewise in the Classroom program will also give the students the opportunity to interact with the varied constituencies within the community at large while working to help those communities become Firewise Communities. Those other constituencies include: local volunteer fire departments, the local home owners associations, and leaders in Berkeley County. This program will bring visibility both to HHS and its participating students.
Ken Pekarek, GIS 4 Schools LLC