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Wildfire triage: targeting mitigation based on social, economic, and ecological values

Author(s): Karl Malcolm, Matthew P. Thompson, David E. Calkin, Mark A. Finney, Alan A. Ager
Year Published: 2012

Evaluating the risks of wildfire relative to the valuable resources found in any managed landscape requires an interdisciplinary approach. Researchers at the Rocky Mountain Research Station and Western Wildland Threat Assessment Center developed such a process, using a combination of techniques rooted in fire modeling and ecology, economics, decision sciences, and the human dimensions of managing natural resources. The method combines predictive mapping of the distribution and intensity of wildfire with locations of highly valued resources. By soliciting input from experts, the response of each resource to different fire intensity levels is estimated and categorized. Combining the likelihood and intensity of fire with the locations and predicted responses of key resources across a landscape allows scientists and managers to determine the areas and assets most likely to experience significant change due to fire. This framework accounts for resources that respond negatively to burning as well as those, like fire-adapted ecosystems, that benefit. Identification of the areas where fires pose low risk to sensitive resources and might be left to burn promotes ecosystem health while minimizing costs of fire suppression. This highly versatile process has been employed at multiple (regional to national) scales while earning encouraging feedback from decision-makers. Work is currently underway to enable managers to employ the process in numerous jurisdictions.

Citation: Malcolm, Karl; Thompson, Matthew; Calkin, Dave; Finney, Mark; Ager, Alan. 2012. Wildfire triage: Targeting mitigation based on social, economic, and ecological values. Science You Can Use Bulletin, Issue 2. Fort Collins, CO: Rocky Mountain Research Station. 9 p.
Topic(s): Fire Communication & Education, Public Perspectives of Fire Management, Fire Ecology, Human Dimensions of Fire Management, Decisionmaking & Sensemaking, Risk
Ecosystem(s): None
Document Type: Research Brief or Fact Sheet
Hot Topic(s): Decisionmaking
NRFSN number: 16178
Record updated: Jan 17, 2018