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Economic optimization of wildfire intervention activities



David T. Butry, Jeffrey P. Prestemon, Karen L. Abt, Rhonda Sutphen


We describe how two important tools of wildfire management, wildfire prevention education and prescribed fire for fuels management, can be coordinated to minimize the combination of management costs and expected societal losses resulting from wildland fire. We present a long-run model that accounts for the dynamics of wildfire, the effects of fuels management on wildfire ignition risk and area burned, and the effects of wildfire prevention education on the ignition risk of human-caused, unintentional wildfires. Based on wildfire management activities in Florida from 2002 to 2007, we find that while wildfire prevention education and prescribed fire have different effects on timing and types of fires, the optimal solution is to increase both interventions. Prescribed fire affects whole landscapes and therefore reduces losses from all wildfire types (including lightning), while wildfire prevention education reduces only human-caused ignitions. However, prescribed fire offers a longer-term solution with little short-term flexibility. Wildfire prevention education programs, by comparison, are more flexible, both in time and space, and can respond to unexpected outbreaks, but with limited mitigation longevity. Only when used together in a coordinated effort do we find the costs and losses from unintentional wildfires are minimized.
International Journal of Wildland Fire


Butry, D. , Prestemon, J. , Abt, K. and Sutphen, R. (2010), Economic optimization of wildfire intervention activities, International Journal of Wildland Fire, [online], (Accessed May 20, 2024)


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Created August 1, 2010, Updated February 19, 2017