Fire & Economics

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Denver water and US Forest Service spent over $60 million to protect Denver’s water supply. Did it work?

Webinar recording.

This webinar presents research which provides insight on how the economic returns from proactive wildfire mitigation could be improved. The research team produced an economic assessment of Denver’s Forests to Faucets partnership, a collaboration which invested >$60 million in wildfire mitigation projects between 2011 and 2019. The research, combining wildfire modeling, sediment modeling, and primary and secondary data on economic values, quantified the impact of the actual investments on multiple values at risk. Large benefits to source water protection and other values at risk resulted from these proactive investments but the benefits only exceed the costs of funding wildfire mitigation under certain conditions.

Wildfire Canada coffee mug

Wildland Fire Canada Conference

Conference website

Wildland Fire Canada Conference (WFCC) brings together wildland fire management agencies, partners, and collaborators in Canada and around the world. These biennial conferences focus on wildland fire management, ecology, and science in Canada. Canada has a diversity of fire-prone environments that bring a unique perspective to wildland fire challenges and opportunities.

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Western Governors’ Association Annual Meeting

Meeting website.

The two-day event, hosted by Idaho Governor and WGA Chair Brad Little, will feature the Western Governors and their specials guests in public conversations about western drought, cross-boundary land management, cybersecurity, clean energy, broadband deployment and telehealth expansion. The in-person gathering at The Coeur d’Alene Resort will comply with state and local requirements on issues such as meeting size limitations, mask usage and social distancing.

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Rangeland economics 101

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NV Section of the Society for Rangeland Management is hosting an all-day webinar. 

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Housing and vegetation factors associated with home survival in 2018 Camp Fire, CA

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Strong associations between both distance to nearest destroyed structure and vegetation within 100 m and home survival in the Camp Fire indicate building and vegetation modifications are possible that would substantially improve outcomes. Among those include improvements to windows and siding in closest proximity to neighboring structures, treatment of wildland fuels, and eliminating near-home combustibles, especially in areas closest to the home (0–1.5 m).

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Exploring the use of ecosystem services conceptual models to account for the benefits of public lands

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This study describes an approach for identifying and monitoring the types of resource benefits and tradeoffs considered in National Forest planning in the United States under the 2012 Planning Rule and demonstrates the use of tools for conceptualizing the production of ecosystem services and benefits from alternative land management strategies. Efforts to apply these tools through workshops and engagement exercises provide opportunities to explore and highlight measures, indicators, and data sources for characterizing benefits and tradeoffs in collaborative environments involving interdisciplinary planning teams. Conceptual modeling tools are applied to a case study examining the social and economic benefits of recreation on the Ashley National Forest.

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Measuring the economic health cost of wildfires- A review

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There has been an increasing interest in the economic health cost from smoke exposure from wildfires in the past 20 years, particularly in the north-western USA that is reflected in an emergent literature. In this review, we provide an overview and discussion of studies since 2006 on the health impacts of wildfire smoke and of approaches for the estimation of the associated economic cost. We focus on the choice of key variables such as cost estimators for determining the economic impact of mortality and morbidity effects. In addition, we provide an in-depth discussion and guidance on the functioning, advantages and challenges of BenMAP-CE, freely available software of the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that has been used in a growing number of studies to assess cost from wildfire smoke. We highlight what generates differences in outcomes between relevant studies and make suggestions for increasing the comparability between studies. All studies, however, demonstrate highly significant health cost from smoke exposure, in the millions or billions of US dollars, often driven by increases in mortality. The results indicate the need to take health cost into account for a comprehensive analysis of wildfire impacts.

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Challenges to determining and demonstrating efficiency of large fire management- A review

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Characterising the impacts of wildland fire and fire suppression is critical information for fire management decision-making. Here, we focus on decisions related to the rare larger and longer-duration fire events, where the scope and scale of decision-making can be far broader than initial response efforts, and where determining and demonstrating efficiency of strategies and actions can be particularly troublesome. We organize our review around key decision factors such as context, complexity, alternatives, consequences and uncertainty, and for illustration contrast fire management in Andalusia, Spain, and Montana, USA. Two of the largest knowledge gaps relate to quantifying fire impacts to ecosystem services, and modelling relationships between fire management activities and avoided damages. The relative magnitude of these and other concerns varies with the complexity of the socioecological context in which fire management decisions are made. To conclude our review, we examine topics for future research, including expanded use of the economics toolkit to better characterize the productivity and effectiveness of suppression actions, integration of ecosystem modelling with economic principles, and stronger adoption of risk and decision analysis within fire management decision-making.

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Monetising the savings of remotely sensed data and information in Burn Area Emergency Response (BAER) wildfire assessment

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This study used a value of information approach to demonstrate the cost-effectiveness of using satellite imagery as part of the Burn Area Emergency Response (BAER), a US federal program that identifies imminent post-wildfire threats to human life and safety, property and critical natural or cultural resources. It compared the costs associated with producing a Burn Area Reflectance Classification map and implementing a BAER when imagery from satellites (either Landsat or a commercial satellite) was available to when the response team relied on information collected solely by aerial reconnaissance. The case study included two evaluations with and without Burn Area Reflectance Classification products: (a) savings of up to US$51 000 for the Elk Complex wildfire incident request and (b) savings of a multi-incident map production program. Landsat is the most cost-effective way to input burn severity information into the BAER program, with savings of up to US$35 million over a 5-year period.

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Up and down: The wildfire economy

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Two researchers discuss findings from studies on how wildfires affect local economies across the U.S. west, from onset to recovery and beyond. 

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