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Measuring Initial Attack Suppression Effectiveness through Burn Probability

Author(s): Jonathan Reimer, Dan K. Thompson, Nicholas A. Povak
Year Published: 2019

Most wildfires in North America are quickly extinguished during initial attack (IA), the first phase of suppression. While rates of success are high, it is not clear how much IA suppression reduces annual fire risk across landscapes. This study introduces a method of estimating IA effectiveness by pairing burn probability (BP) analysis with containment probability calculations based on initial fire intensity, spread rate, and crew response time. The method was demonstrated on a study area in Kootenay National Park, Canada by comparing burn probabilities with and without modeled IA suppression. Results produced landscape-level analyses of three variables: burn probability, suppression effectiveness, and conditional escape probability. Overall, IA reduced mean study area BP by 78% as compared to a no-suppression scenario, but the primary finding was marked spatial heterogeneity. IA was most effective in recently burned areas (86% reduction), whereas mature, contiguous fuels moderated its influence (50%). Suppression was least effective in the designated wildfire exclusion zone, suggesting supplementary management approaches may be appropriate. While the framework includes assumptions about IA containment, results offer new insight into emergent risk patterns and how management strategies alter them. Managers can adopt these methods to anticipate, quantify, and compare fine-scale policy outcomes.

Citation: Reimer, Jonathan; Thompson, Dan K.; Povak, Nicholas A. 2019. Measuring initial attack suppression effectiveness through burn probability. Fire 2(4):60. https://doi.org/10.3390/fire2040060
Topic(s): Fire Behavior, Risk
Ecosystem(s): None
Document Type: Book or Chapter or Journal Article
NRFSN number: 20549
TTRS (Tall Timbers Research Station) Number: 60383
Record updated: Jan 7, 2020