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Evaluating risks and benefits of wildland fire at landscape scales

Posted date: June 22, 2006
Publication Year: 
2000
Authors: Miller, Carol L.Landres, Peter B.; Alaback, Paul B.
Publication Series: 
Miscellaneous Publication
Source: In: Neuenschwander, Leon F.; Ryan, Kevin C., tech. eds. Crossing the millenium: integrating spatial technologies and ecological principles for a new age in fire management: Proceedings, Joint Fire Sciences conference and workshop; June 15-17, 1999, Boise, ID. Boise, ID: University of Idaho. 10 p

Abstract

Fire suppression has resulted in severe management challenges, especially in the wildland-urban interface zone. Fire managers seek to reduce fuels and risks in the interface zone, while striving to return the natural role of fire to wildland ecosystems. Managers must balance the benefits of wildland fire on ecosystem health against the values that need to be protected from fire, and they need to achieve this balance for entire landscapes. Although wildland fire managers have a full spectrum of strategies available for reducing fuels, they lack appropriate tools for effectively applying these fuels management strategies at landscape scales. Furthermore, many managers are locked into a reinforcing feedback cycle in that perceived risks lead to fire suppression, leading to increased risks and further fire suppression. Existing tools and approaches for planning fire and fuels management perpetuate this cycle by focusing on risk while ignoring the potential benefits of fire. A GIS model is currently being developed that will assess the potential benefits from wildland fire as well as the risk to values in the interface. The model estimates both fire risk and benefit as functions of three variables, all of which vary across landscapes: (1) probability of fire occurrence, (2) expected fire severity, and (3) the ecological, social, and economic value ascribed to an area. By generating maps of fire risk and benefit, the model provides critical information that can be used to prioritize areas for fuels treatment programs. Managers can use the model to simulate alternative fuels treatments and assess their effects on fire risk and benefit across a landscape. As such, the model represents a powerful tool that will help managers develop landscape-scale plans that maximize the benefits of wildland fire while minimizing the risks to values in the wildland-urban interface zone.

Citation

Miller, Carol; Landres, Peter B.; Alaback, Paul B. 2000. Evaluating risks and benefits of wildland fire at landscape scales. In: Neuenschwander, Leon F.; Ryan, Kevin C., tech. eds. Crossing the millenium: integrating spatial technologies and ecological principles for a new age in fire management: Proceedings, Joint Fire Sciences conference and workshop; June 15-17, 1999, Boise, ID. Boise, ID: University of Idaho. 10 p