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Wildfire Risk Management Science Team

The U.S. Forest Service faces a future of increasing complexity and risk, pressing financial issues, and the inescapable possibility of loss of human life. These issues are perhaps most acute for wildland fire management, the highest risk activity in which the Forest Service engages. Risk management (RM) has long been put forth as an appropriate approach for addressing fire, and agency-wide adoption of RM principles and practices will be critical to bring about necessary change and improve future decisions.

The Wildfire Risk Management Science Team, housed in the Human Dimensions Science Programseeks to develop and apply risk analysis, economics, and decision science research to improve the scientific basis for wildfire management.

Two questions central to the Team's efforts are:

1) How can we better understand the complexities of the fire management system, identify characteristics of the system structure that drive behavior, and improve the system so that behavior better aligns with intended purpose?

2) How can we build the capacity to adapt and transform the wildfire management response to meet long-term sustainable management objectives?

The Team explores wildfire management through the lenses of risk analysis, economics, decision science, and landscape ecology to improve the scientific basis for the full range of wildfire management decisions.

Primary research themes include:

Wildfire risk assessment framework (figure from RMRS GTR-315).
Wildfire risk assessment framework (figure from RMRS GTR-315).

Over the past several years, the Team has played a critical role in the application of risk management to improve wildfire management planning and decision making. Additionally, the program has provided key research to help the Forest Service better understand and describe the return on investments of alternative fire management strategies and expenditures. 

In a recording from the Property and Environmental Research Center from August 2016 linked here, Dr. Dave Calkin discusses some of the challenges faced by the wildfire management community as well as some potential solutions tied to risk management principles.

The Team works closely with the National Fire Decision Support Center (NFDSC) to implement science-based solutions to wildfire decision-making challenges.