Policy Implications of Large Fire Management: A Strategic Assessment of Factors Influencing Costs   [open pdf - 2MB]

"In late summer of 1999, lightning would strike Northern and Southern California and begin a three-month odyssey of wildland fire fighting that would eventually consume over 227,000 acres and cost about $178 million to finally contain. This expenditure represents about 30 percent of the total Forest Service fire suppression budget in 1999. While initial reviews indicated sound reasons for the high costs, a more in-depth examination was called for. The subsequent examination did not identify anything that would have significantly reduced the costs of managing the Kirk and Big Bar Complexes. However, many factors might have improved the overall efficiency of fire suppression efforts, and thus reduce some costs, including fire planning tiered to land management planning, and improved integration of risk analysis in fire management decisions. Improved initial attack capabilities, while not a clear consensus-problem on the two Complexes examined, did surface as an issue of national importance based on many discussions. During the examination, several recommendations specific to the two Complexes and others of national concern were developed. The recommendations in this report reinforce recommendations made in several other past studies that have highlighted the need for important changes in the fire management program. The adequacy of recommendations is not the issue. Fundamental adjustments in fire management policy, funding, and organizational barriers, or in some cases the basic implementation of previous recommendations, must take place in order to redeem the role of fire management in the Forest Service for the 21st Century. Without these changes, the problems we face today will be the same ones we will experience well into the future with potentially greater costs and consequences."

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United States Forest Service: http://www.fs.fed.us
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