NIST Developing ‘Richter’ Scale for Wildland Fires

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is developing a method for predicting the destructiveness of wildland fires that it hopes will allow residents and city planners better anticipate potential disasters.

Much like the Richter scale does for earthquakes, the Wildland Urban Interface (WUI) Hazard Scale will assign a numerical value to project a wildfire’s intensity. It will have a proposed range from E1 to E4, with E4 being a location’s highest exposure to fire.

Nelson Bryner, research engineer for NIST’s fire research division, envisions the day when TV stations report that a wildfire is burning in an E4 community, an Associated Press report noted ( But he said the scale is primarily meant to form the technical foundation for tougher building codes to be developed by states, cities, and communities for high-risk areas.

Read more about the scale at

Wildfirs have devastated the American West this year, with the most extreme examples being the massive Rim Fire in California, the Black Forest Fire in Colorado, and Arizona’s Yarnell Hill Fire, which resulted in the deaths of 19 firefighters.

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