Fire & Economics

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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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Spatiotemporal evaluation of fuel treatment and previous wildfire effects on suppression costs

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This project quantifies the effects of fuel treatments and previously burned areas on daily fire management costs, as well as summarizes recent encounter rates between fuel treatments and
wildland fires across the conterminous United States.  Unexpectedly, we found that encounters with fuel treatments and previous fires increase daily fire management costs. Managers working in the field validated the concept suggesting that fuel treatments and previous fires are often areas where suppression efforts are applied in greater force.

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Great Basin Wildfire Forum: The search for solutions

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This document includes scientist contributions and group recommendations that came from the Great Basin Wildfire Forum held at the University of Nevada in September of 2007.  In the first section, the editors provide background and overview of the major issues of the Great Basin as they relate to the wildfire forum discussions. The next section is an edited version of the individual contributions of the scientists based on their oral presentations and written contributions.

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Application of an original wildfire smoke health cost benefits transfer protocol to the western US, 2005-2015

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This study provides the first time series estimates of PM2.5 smoke costs across mortality and several morbidity measures for the Western US over 2005–2015. This time period includes smoke from several megafires and includes years of record-breaking acres burned. Smoke costs are estimated using a benefits transfer protocol developed for contexts when original health data are not available. The novelty of our protocol is that it synthesizes the literature on choices faced by researchers when conducting a smoke cost benefit transfer. On average, wildfire smoke in the Western US creates $165 million in annual morbidity and mortality health costs.

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Climate change and fiscal risk: Wildland fire technical supplement

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This report evaluated how changes in climate in the United States would lead to changes by the middle and the end of the current century in annual spending to suppress wildfires on USDA Forest Service (FS) and Department of the Interior (DOI) managed lands.

To do this, researchers developed a two-stage model. In the first stage, we analyzed the historical relationships between area burned on FS and DOI lands and maximum daily temperatures and other variables. In the second stage, we analyzed historical relationships between area burned and suppression spending.

Then, using projections of climate obtained from general circulation models, we projected area burned, and used this projection in our second stage model to project spending on suppression. All spending projections were done with constant 2014 dollars. We made projections for mid-century (2041-2059) and late-century (2081-2099). Uncertainty in the area burned and suppression spending was quantified using Monte Carlo simulation methods, incorporating parametric uncertainty from the two stage models and climate uncertainty from the alternative climate projections.

Results show that median area burned on DOI lands is projected to increase, compared to the amount observed between 1995 and 2013, by 99% by mid-century and by 189% by late-century. For FS lands, the increases are projected to be 123% by mid-century and 221%, respectively. Given such changes in area burned, DOI spending is projected to increase by 45% by mid-century and by 72% by late-century. For the FS, annual spending is projected to rise by 117% and 192%, respectively. Such changes would entail an increase in dollars spent in total across both agencies from a historical average of $1.33 billion to a projected $2.63 billion in mid-century and $3.47 billion by late-century.

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The rising cost of wildfire operations: Effects on the Forest Service’s non-fire work

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This report documents the growth over the past 20 years of the portion of the Forest Service’s budget that is dedicated to fire, and the debilitating impact those rising costs are having on the recreation, restoration, planning, and other activities of the Forest Service.

As more and more of the agency’s resources are spent each year to provide the firefighters, aircraft, and other assets necessary to protect lives, property, and natural resources from catastrophic wildfires, fewer and fewer funds and resources are available to support other agency work—including the very programs and restoration projects that reduce the fire threat.

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Ranch-level economic impact analysis for public lands: A guide to methods, issues, and applications

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In this paper, authors review state-of-the-art methods and models that can be used to evaluate ranch-level decisions and land-use policy impacts.

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The efficacy of hazardous fuel treatments: A rapid assessment of the economic and ecologic consequences of alternative hazardous fuel treatments

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This special report from the Ecological Restoration Institute at Northern Arizona University was presented to the U.S. Department of Interior, Office of Wildland Fire. The goal of this synthesis was to find, analyze and synthesize the best available evidence that policy makers need to make decisions about how to spend the limited money available to address the nation’s growing fire problem.

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