Do fuel treatment costs affect wildfire suppression costs and property damages?

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Spatial wildfire suppression costs regressions have been re-estimated at a more disaggregated level for the nine Geographic Area Coordination Center (GACC’s) regions using five years of data for fires involving National Forests. Results of these revised regression determined that only in the California GACCs did mechanical fuel treatment reduce wildfire suppression costs. However, the results of our second major hypothesis tests that fuel treatments, by making wildfires less damaging and easier to control, may reduce property damages (i.e., structures—barns, out buildings, etc. and residences lost) seems to be confirmed for acres treated with prescribed burning. In four out of the seven GACC regions prescribed burning lowered the number of structures damaged by wildfire. The results for mechanical fuel treatment were more mixed, with a significant negative effect in reducing property damages in two of the three regions with a significant coefficient on mechanical fuel treatment. These results are consistent with past research that suggests that for fuel treatments to reduce wildfire suppression costs it may be necessary to substantially increase the amount of area treated.

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