Effectiveness of fuel reduction treatments

Wallow fire, two burn areasA report has been released that had the objective of determining if fuel reduction treatments are effective in reducing the severity and cost of wildland fires. It was prepared for the U.S. Department of Interior’s Office of Wildland Fire by the Ecological Restoration Institute at Northern Arizona University. The reason it was written is interesting, according to the report: (emphasis added)

The Office of Management and Budget, Government Accountability Office and the United States Congress have repeatedly asked the Office of Wildland Fire in the Department of Interior and the United States Forest Service to critically examine and demonstrate the role and effectiveness of fuel reduction treatments for addressing the increasing severity and cost of wildland fire. Federal budget analysts want to know if and when investments in fuel reduction treatments will reduce federal wildland fire suppression costs, decrease fire risk to communities, and avert resource damage.

The report has a catchy title: The efficacy of hazardous fuel treatments: A rapid assessment of the economic and ecologic consequences of alternative hazardous fuel treatments: A summary document for policy makers.

Here are a few of the conclusions reached by the 12 authors and researchers:

  • Studies that use the avoided cost approach to examine the cost of fire demonstrate that treatments result in suppression cost savings.
  • Modeling studies that evaluate the effectiveness of fuels treatments in terms of changes in wildland fire size, burn probabilities, and fire behavior demonstrate that fuel treatments applied at the proper scale can influence the risk, size, and behavior of fire therefore reducing suppression cost.
  • Modeling demonstrates that fuel reduction treatments are effective at reducing fire behavior (severity) where implemented, and can successfully reduce fire risk to communities.
  • Although few studies exist on the topic, fuel reduction treatments significantly enhance the price of adjacent real estate, whereas homes in close proximity to a wildfire experience lower property values.


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Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire.