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Optimal timing of wildfire prevention education



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


Public outreach and wildfire education activities have been shown to limit the number of unintentional human-caused ignitions (i.e., accidental wildfires). Such activities include the airing of public service announcements, visiting with homeowners in at-risk areas, distributing informative brochures and flyers, hosting of public forums (with presentations), and facilitating community-sponsored neighborhood hazard assessments. By limiting the number of ignitions, prevention entirely avoids costs and losses related to fire suppression (initial attack) and property damage. In this paper, we show that the benefits of wildfire prevention education activities carried out in the State of Florida, USA, far outweigh their costs. We also report how the return on wildfire prevention education investment in that State varies i.e., the effectiveness of these programs varies with many exogenous factors, including weather, recent wildfire history and fuel management activities, and season. To illustrate how this effectiveness variation could be exploited to increase returns to money spent on prevention, we explore the optimal timing of wildfire prevention activities. Optimal timing of wildfire prevention education spending is defined as the spending allocation over time that yields the lowest wildfire-induced cost plus net value change to society. We find that, for Florida, the optimal (monthly) timing of prevention activities can be forecasted by exploiting the relationships between prevention effectiveness and fire weather measures, which vary predictably within the year.
Proceedings Title
WIT Transactions on Ecology and the Environment
Conference Dates
June 23-25, 2010
Conference Location
Conference Title
Forest Fire 2010


fire economics, wildland-urban interface, hazard mitigation, wildfire prevention, wildfire education


Butry, D. , Prestemon, J. and Abt, K. (2010), Optimal timing of wildfire prevention education, WIT Transactions on Ecology and the Environment, Kos, -1, [online], (Accessed April 22, 2024)
Created June 23, 2010, Updated February 19, 2017