USDA Forest Service

Pacific Southwest Research Station

Pacific Southwest
Research Station

800 Buchanan Street
Albany, CA 94710-0011
(510) 883-8830
United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service. USDA logo which links to the department's national site. Forest Service logo which links to the agency's national site.

Research Topics Fire Science

Economics of fire management

A view of a Burney, California, biomass power plant through an opening in the forest.
Biomass power plant in Burney, California.

Wildland fire management has increased significantly over the last 20 years to now consume more than half of the total Forest Service annual budget. The Forest Service continues to be committed to minimization of loss of life and property, and there is growing concern over the costs and the long-term ramifications of wildfire suppression.

Wildfire management is associated with many economic factors. Primary factors include preparedness in training, education, and technology; available personnel and equipment for suppression; economic losses from wildfire, such as the loss of structures or loss from decreased tourism; post-fire rehabilitation and restoration of habitats and landscapes that increase resilience to fire. 

Improvement in Forest Service economic analysis capabilities aims to assist fire managers in the evaluation of the potential impact of wildland fires. This requires development of innovative economic values information using different tools like geographic information system (GIS).  These economic data layers include the financial costs associated with the event (loss of jobs, homes, and other structures) and nonmarket values lost, such as reductions in air and water quality, loss of recreation due to trail closures, loss of biodiversity, and loss of scenic vistas. These values are acquired through various market and non-market evaluations, including studies of public willingness to pay for protection of assets, and real estate and business values from existing sources (for example the assessor’s office). Application of these techniques to Forest Service management activities leads to greater adequacy and completeness when conducting cost/benefit analysis necessary for budget levels determination and fire management programs efficiency.

An integration of market and nonmarket values improves fire economic analysis in order to evaluate investments in fire management programs; including fuel treatment projects and alternative strategies evaluation for large fire risk assessment. Using such an approach allows fire managers to make decisions to pre-position or re-position wildfire protection resources based on the resulting combination of the probability of fire occurrence and estimated loss from wildland fires. This approach also facilitates consideration of the full value of risk-reduction, or fuel treatment strategies that may preclude larger wildfires but represent additional  investments, both short and long-term.

How public, tribal and private lands, and the fire risk or threat, are managed influence the economic values of property and resources and influence long term socioecological resilience and community well-being. Fire management and risk reduction activities can be used as tools to contribute to community economic stability while accomplishing multi-agency and stakeholder goals of risk reduction and improved ecosystem function.

  • Winter, P.L.; Long, J.W.; Lake, F.K. 2014. Sociocultural perspectives on threats, risks, and health. In: Long, J.W.; Quinn-Davidson, L.; Skinner, C.N., eds. Science synthesis to support socioecological resilience in the Sierra Nevada and southern Cascade Range. Gen. Tech. Rep. PSW-GTR-247. Albany, CA: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacific Southwest Research Station: 569-598. Chap. 9.3.
  • Baerenklau, Kenneth A.; González-Cabán, Armando; Paez, Catrina; Chavez, Edgard. 2010. Spatial allocation of forest recreation value. Journal of Forest Economics. 16(2): 113-126.
  • Benoit, John W.; González-Cabán, Armando; Fujioka, Francis M.; Chen, Shyh-Chin; Sánchez, José J. 2013. Spatial allocation of market and nonmarket values in wildland fire management: A case study. In: González-Cabán, Armando, tech. coord. Proceedings of the fourth international symposium on fire economics, planning, and policy: climate change and wildfires. Gen. Tech. Rep. PSW-GTR-245 (English). Albany, CA: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacific Southwest Research Station: 213-224.
  • González-Cabán, Armando. 2013. The economic dimension of wildland fires. In: Goldammer, Johann Georg, ed. Vegetation Fires and Global Change – Challenges for Concerted International Action. A White Paper directed to the United Nations and International Organizations. Kassel Publishing House (ISBN 978-3-941300-78-1): 229-237.
  • Holmes, Thomas P.; Loomis, John; González-Cabán, Armando 2010. A mixed logit model of homeowner preferences for wildfire hazard reduction. In: Proceedings of the Third International Symposium on Fire Economics, Planning, and Policy: Common Problems and Approaches. Carolina, Puerto Rico: 29 April -2 May 2008. Gen. Tech. Rep. PSW-227. USDA-Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station: 124-136.
  • Loomis, J.B.; Trong Hung, L.; and González-Cabán, A. 2005. Testing transferability of willingness to pay for forest fire prevention among three states of California, Florida and Montana. Journal of Forest Economics. 11: 125-140.
  • Loomis, John B.; Gonzalez-Caban, Armando. 2008. Contingent valuation of fuel hazard reduction treatments. In: Holmes, Thomas P.; Prestemon, Jeffrey P.; Abt, Karen L., eds. 2008. The economics of forest disturbances: Wildfires, storms, and invasive species. Springer Verlag. Volume 79, III, 229-243.
  • Loomis, J.B.; Trong Hung, L.; González-Cabán, A. 2009. Willingness to pay function for two fuels treatments to reduce wildfire acreage burned: A scope test and comparison of White and Hispanic households. Forest Policy and Economics 11: 155-160
  • MacGregor, D.G.; González-Cabán, A. 2008. Decision modeling for analyzing fire action outcomes. Research Paper PSW-RP-258. Albany, CA: USDA-Forest Service, Pacific Southwest Research Station. 67 p.
  • MacGregor, D.G.; Finucane, M.; González-Cabán, A. 2008. Risk perception, adaptation and behavior change: Self-protection in the wildland-urban interface. In: Martin, W.E.; Raish, C.; Kent, B., eds. Wildfire Risk: Human Perception and Management Implications. Washington, DC: Resources for the Future: 142-155.
  • Rodríguez y Silva, Francisco; Molina, Juan Ramón; González-Cabán, Armando; Herrera, Machuca; Miguel, Ángel. 2012. Economic vulnerability of timber resources to forest fires. Journal of Environmental Management. 100: 16-21.