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The role of previous fires in the management and expenditures of subsequent large wildfires

Author(s): Erin J. Belval, Christopher D. O'Connor, Matthew P. Thompson, Michael S. Hand
Year Published: 2019

Previously burned areas can influence the occurrence, extent, and severity of subsequent wildfires, which may influence expenditures on large fires. We develop a conceptual model of how interactions of fires with previously burned areas may influence fire management, fire behavior, expenditures, and test hypotheses using regression models of wildfire size and suppression expenditures. Using a sample of 722 large fires from the western United States, we observe whether a fire interacted with a previous fire, the percent area of fires burned by previous fires, and the percent perimeter overlap with previous fires. Fires that interact with previous fires are likely to be larger and have lower total expenditures on average. Conditional on a fire encountering a previous fire, a greater extent of interaction with previous fires is associated with reduced fire size but higher expenditures, although the expenditure effect is small and imprecisely estimated. Subsequent analysis suggests that fires that interact with previous fires may be systematically different from other fires along several dimensions. We do not find evidence that interactions with previous fires reduce suppression expenditures for subsequent fires. Results suggest that previous fires may allow suppression opportunities that otherwise might not exist, possibly reducing fire size but increasing total expenditures.

Citation: Belval EJ, O’Connor CD, Thompson MP, and Hand MS. 2019. The Role of Previous Fires in the Management and Expenditures of Subsequent Large Wildfires. Fire 2(4): 57. https://doi.org/10.3390/fire2040057
Topic(s): Fire & Economics, Fire Suppression, Fuels, Fuel Treatments & Effects, Suppression treatments
Ecosystem(s): None
Document Type: Book or Chapter or Journal Article
NRFSN number: 20409
Record updated: Jan 26, 2020