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Modeling fuel treatment impacts on fire suppression cost savings: a review

Author(s): Matthew P. Thompson, Nathaniel Anderson
Year Published: 2015

High up-front costs and uncertain return on investment make it difficult for land managers to economically justify large-scale fuel treatments, which remove trees and other vegetation to improve conditions for fire control, reduce the likelihood of ignition, or reduce potential damage from wildland fire if it occurs. In the short-term, revenue from harvested forest products can offset treatment costs and broaden opportunities for treatment implementation. Increasingly, financial analysis of fuel treatments is also incorporating long-term savings through reduced fire suppression costs, which can be difficult to quantify. This paper reviews the findings and lessons from recent modeling work evaluating the potential relationship between fuel treatments and avoided fire suppression costs. Across studies, treatments are generally predicted to reduce future fire suppression costs, although the magnitude of savings is unlikely to fully offset fuel treatment costs. This funding gap highlights the importance of forest product revenues in facilitating landscape-scale treatment. Factors influencing the effects of fuel treatment investments on fire suppression costs include the causal pathway linking treatment inputs to suppression cost outcomes; the spatiotemporal uncertainty of wildfire-treatment interactions; and the scale of fuel treatment programs.

Citation: Thompson, Matthew P.; Anderson, Nathaniel M. 2015. Modeling fuel treatment impacts on fire suppression cost savings: a review. California Agriculture. 69(3): 164-170.
Topic(s): Fire Behavior, Simulation Modeling, Fire & Economics, Fuels, Fuel Treatments & Effects, Mechanical treatments, Prescribed Fire-use treatments, Suppression treatments
Ecosystem(s): None
Document Type: Book or Chapter or Journal Article, Synthesis
NRFSN number: 13950
FRAMES RCS number: 21443
Record updated: Jul 6, 2018