Patterns of wildfire risk in the United States from systematic operational risk assessments: how risk is characterised by land managers

Erin Noonan-Wright, Carl A. Seielstad

    Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

    Abstract

    Risk management is a significant part of federal wildland fire management in the USA because policy encourages the use of fire to maintain and restore ecosystems while protecting life and property. In this study, patterns of wildfire risk were explored from operational relative risk assessments (RRA) completed by land managers on 5087 wildfires from 2010 to 2017 in every geographic area of the USA. The RRA is the formal risk assessment used by land managers to develop strategies on emerging wildfires when concerns and issues related to wildfire management are in real-time. Only 38% of these wildfires were rated as high risk and 28% had high ratings for values at risk. Large regional variations were evident, with the West Coast regions selecting high risk and the South-west and Eastern regions selecting low risk. There were finer-scale influences on perceived risk when summarised on a jurisdictional level. Finally, risk summarised by USA agencies showed that the National Park Service and USDA Forest Service selected high risk less frequently compared with other agencies. By illuminating patterns of risk, this research intends to stimulate examination of the social, cultural, and physiographic factors influencing conceptions of risk.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)569-584
    Number of pages16
    JournalInternational Journal of Wildland Fire
    Volume30
    Issue number8
    DOIs
    StatePublished - Aug 2021

    Keywords

    • federal
    • fire management
    • geographic area
    • relative risk assessment
    • Wildland Fire Decision Support System

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