A JFSP Fire Science Exchange Network
Bringing People Together & Sharing Knowledge in the Northern Rockies

Managing the market: how procurement practices impact private sector wildfire response capacity

Author(s): Heidi Huber-Stearns, Cassandra Moseley, Autumn Ellison
Year Published: 2016

Effective wildfire management requires significant institutional organization, a skilled workforce, facilities, and equipment. Sustaining sufficient wildfire response capacity is critical to both agencies and communities that are affected by fire. Because fire suppression is seasonal work and demands vary considerably from year to year, it is vitally important that adequate capacity in the form of resources can be mobilized when resources are needed. As USDA Forest Service staffing has declined over the past decade, the agency more frequently contracts directly with businesses and through partnerships with state agencies to meet these episodic needs (McKinley 2008; Prestemon et al. 2008). As a “market manager,” the Forest Service’s rules and actions concerning contracting can also affect how businesses and communities garner economic benefits from wildfire response spending.

The purpose of this project was to explore the contracting market for fire suppression in the Western United States, specifically focusing on (1) how private sector fire suppression capacity compares to demand and wildfire locations, (2) business models and strategies used by fire suppression contractors to maintain their business in an unpredictable market, and (3) transitions in the fire suppression contracting industry.

Main findings from this research suggest that (1) privately contracted fire suppression equipment is unevenly distributed across the west, (2) dispatch centers share contracted resources regularly, (3) peak demand for Northwest engines may be below capacity, and (4) businesses engaged in suppression equipment contracting in the Northwest come mainly from forestry, commercial services, and fire backgrounds, and they employ a variety of diversification strategies to maintain their businesses under unpredictable fire suppression demand.

Citation: Huber-Stearns, Heidi R.; Moseley, Cassandra; Ellison, Autumn. 2016. Managing the market: how procurement practices impact private sector wildfire response capacity - Final Report to the Joint Fire Science Program. JFSP Project No. 12-2-01-10. Eugene, OR: University of Oregon. 19 p.
Topic(s): Fire & Economics
Ecosystem(s): None
Document Type: Technical Report or White Paper
NRFSN number: 15575
FRAMES RCS number: 23987
Record updated: May 14, 2018