Role of previous fires in the management and expenditures of subsequent large wildfires

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Using a sample of 722 large fires from the western United States, we observe whether a fire interacted with a previous fire, the percent area of fires burned by previous fires, and the percent perimeter overlap with previous fires. Fires that interact with previous fires are likely to be larger and have lower total expenditures on average. Conditional on a fire encountering a previous fire, a greater extent of interaction with previous fires is associated with reduced fire size but higher expenditures, although the expenditure effect is small and imprecisely estimated. Subsequent analysis suggests that fires that interact with previous fires may be systematically different from other fires along several dimensions. We do not find evidence that interactions with previous fires reduce suppression expenditures for subsequent fires. Results suggest that previous fires may allow suppression opportunities that otherwise might not exist, possibly reducing fire size but increasing total expenditures.

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