PORTLAND, Ore. June 28, 2006. Recent research
shows that using the right mix of agency and contract crews is
the most cost effective way to fight fires rather than using contract
or agency crews exclusively, according to Geoffrey Donovan, a research
forester at the Forest Service’s Pacific Northwest Research
Donovan arrived at these findings after analyzing the full
cost of 33 Forest Service type II fire crews dispatched during
fire season from five national forests in Oregon and Washington.
The costs were estimated and compared with the cost of contract
crews dispatched in the same region.
My model helps managers to reduce costs by finding the optimal
mix of contract and agency crews,” explains Donovan. “A
comparison of the full cost of a contract and an agency crew shows
that if an agency crew is provided with continuous work, then the
cost of that crew is approximately 70 percent of the cost of a
contract crew. However, if an agency crew is not provided with
continuous work, then it quickly loses its cost advantage.”
model so far, is applicable only to Oregon and Washington, although
the methodology can be applied in other areas of the country.
The entire study appears in the Western Journal of Applied Forestry
and in the research publication, Ecological Modeling.
suppression costs in the West and across the country have increased
dramatically in the past 10 years. Public land
are struggling with shrinking budgets, rising costs for personnel
and equipment, and higher demand for services from rural communities.
As a result, the Forest Service is increasingly relying on
contract fire crews and using fewer agency fire crews.