Priorities and effectiveness in wildfire management: Evidence from fire spread in the West

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We investigate priorities and effectiveness of wildfire suppression using a novel empirical strategy that compares 1,500 historical fire perimeters with the spatial distribution of assets at risk to identify determinants of wildfire suppression efforts. We find that fires are more likely to stop spreading as they approach homes, particularly when those homes are of higher value. This effect of threatened assets persists after controlling for physical factors (fuels, landscape, and weather) using outputs from a state-of-the-art wildfire simulation tool, and the probability that fire spread will be halted is affected by characteristics of homes 1–2 km from a fire’s edge. Our results provide evidence that wildfire suppression can substantively affect outcomes from wildfires but that some groups may benefit more from wildfire management than others.

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