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Wildland Fires within Municipal Jurisdictions



Douglas S. Thomas, David T. Butry


Each year, wildland fires threaten structures and occupants of the wildland-urban interface (WUI). Currently, wildfire ignition estimates largely exclude ignitions originating within municipal jurisdictions, whose jurisdiction encompasses the majority of the U.S. population. The objective of this paper is to provide national estimates and trends of the WUI-fire problem; in particular we analyze the U.S. Fire Administration’s (USFA) National Fire Incident Reporting System (NFIRS) fire incident data from 2002 to 2006 reported by local municipal fire departments across the United States. We estimate that, on average, the burning of wildland fuels are associated with 116 971 fires annually. Each year, these fires are responsible for, on average, 15 civilian (non-fire service) fatalities, 88 civilian injuries, and $160 million in direct property losses. These damages include losses to 599 residential structures, 649 non-residential structures, and 829 vehicles (per year). Based on the value of a statistical life ($8.75 million) and statistical injury ($189 thousand), we find that the economic value of fatalities and injuries averaged $148 million annually. Thus, the losses associated with fires occurring on municipal lands total on average $308 million annually over this time period.
Journal of Forestry
January/February 2012


wildfire, wildland


Thomas, D. and Butry, D. (2012), Wildland Fires within Municipal Jurisdictions, Journal of Forestry, [online], (Accessed February 27, 2024)
Created January 1, 2012, Updated February 19, 2017