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Do fuel treatment costs affect wildfire suppression costs and property damages? An analysis of costs, damages avoided and return on investment - Final Report to the Joint Fire Science Program

Author(s): Armando Gonzalez-Caban, John B. Loomis, Robin Reich, Douglas B. Rideout, José J. Sánchez
Year Published: 2017
Description:

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 geographic (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. Further, our results also bring forth another hypothesis that perhaps fuel treatment efforts may reduce the likelihood of large wildfires. This possibility is related to another new hypothesis that our research generated: fuel treatments may reduce the likelihood that small fires will grow into larger more expensive fires to control. If this is the case there is likely to be a substantial cost savings arising from fuel treatments in reducing the number of large fires. The results of our analysis “Do forest fuel reduction treatments reduce wildfire suppression costs and property damages? A multi-regional nationwide analysis of determinants of USDA Forest Service wildfire suppression costs and wildfire property damages” was presented at the V International Symposium on Fire Economics, Planning and Policy: Wildfires and Ecosystem Services by Armando González-Cabán. After presenting preliminary results at the V International symposium on Fire Economics, Planning and Policy: Wildfires and Ecosystem Services we received numerous helpful suggestions. As a result we greatly expanded the literature review and refined the regression model specification as suggested by the comments we received. The resulting paper was presented at the Western Agricultural Economics Association on July 10, 2017. After receiving those comments, a final journal manuscript on the results of the tests of whether fuel treatments reduce suppression costs and property damages was submitted to the Forest Policy and Economics.

Citation: González-Cabán A, Loomis JB, Reich R, Rideout D, Sánchez JJ. 2017. Do fuel treatment costs affect wildfire suppression costs and property damages? An analysis of costs, damages avoided and return on investment. Joint Fire Science Project14-5-01-12. Riverside, CA: Pacific Southwest Research Station. 62 p.
Topic(s): Fire & Economics, Fire Suppression, Fuels, Fuel Treatments & Effects, Mechanical treatments, Prescribed Fire-use treatments, Suppression treatments, Fuels Inventory & Monitoring
Ecosystem(s): None
Document Type: Technical Report or White Paper
NRFSN number: 16993
Record updated: May 24, 2018