Fire & Economics
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.
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.
The two-day event, hosted by Idaho Governor and WGA Chair Brad Little, featured 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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.