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Wildfire decision support tools: an exploratory study of use in the United States

Author(s): Claire Rapp, Emily Rabung, Robyn S. Wilson, Eric L. Toman
Year Published: 2020

In the United States, many decision support tools exist to provide fire managers with weather and fire behaviour information to inform and facilitate risk-based decision-making. Relatively little is known about how managers use these tools in the field and when and how they may serve to influence decisions. To address this gap, we conducted exploratory interviews with 27 wildfire management and fire weather professionals across the United States. Results reveal that barriers to the use of decision support tools are structural and social. Specifically, fire weather and behaviour models may not generate reliable output and managers may not use the information they provide, but technical specialists on incident management teams (IMTs) play an active role in trying to overcome these barriers through their technical expertise and their relationships with other members of the IMT. Although researchers suggest tools such as the Wildland Fire Decision Support System (WFDSS) inform broad, strategic decision-making for line officers and IMTs, our results suggest fire weather and behaviour models are also important for communication and strategic or tactical planning within the IMT, especially for operations. We find that ultimately, managers may make use of fire weather and behaviour models, but they do not dictate decisions.

Citation: Rapp, Claire; Rabung, Emily; Wilson, Robyn; Toman, Eric. 2020. Wildfire decision support tools: an exploratory study of use in the United States. International Journal of Wildland Fire 29(7):581-594. https://doi.org/10.1071/WF19131
Topic(s): Fire Behavior, Simulation Modeling, Weather
Ecosystem(s): None
Document Type: Book or Chapter or Journal Article
NRFSN number: 21587
FRAMES RCS number: 61575
Record updated: Aug 3, 2020