Fuel Treatments & Effects
Human Dimensions of Fire Management
Wildland fire occurrence is highly variable in time and space, and in the United States where total area burned can vary substantially, acquiring resources (firefighters, engines, aircraft, etc.) to respond to fire demand is an important consideration. To determine the composition and scale of this set of suppression resources managers may utilize data produced by past supply and demand information. The key challenge with this approach is that there is currently no clear system of record to track suppression resource supply and demand, and there are potential pitfalls within existing systems that may provide misleading information regarding the true levels of resource scarcity. In this manuscript, we investigate the issue of resource scarcity by examining two key resources that operations personnel have identified as both high value and scarce: type 1 firefighting crews and large airtankers. We examine data from the Resource Ordering and Status System and analyze the level of resource scarcity indicated by these data over the 2014–2018 fire seasons. We focus on data metrics with potential utility for managers responsible for annual national-level decisions regarding crew and airtanker acquisition; some of these metrics are already used to inform such decisions. We examine the limitations of each metric and suggest new metrics that could more accurately reflect true resource use and scarcity. Such metrics could lead to a substantially improved decision-making process.