Economic optimisation of wildfire intervention activities
We describe how two important tools of wildfire management, wildfire prevention education and prescribed fire for fuels management, can be coordinated to minimise the combination of management costs and expected societal losses resulting from wildland fire. We present a long-run model that accounts for the dynamics of wildfire, the effects of fuels management on wildfire ignition risk and area burned, and the effects of wildfire prevention education on the ignition risk of human-caused, unintentional wildfires. Based on wildfire management activities in Florida from 2002 to 2007, we find that although wildfire prevention education and prescribed fire have different effects on timing and types of fires, the optimal solution is to increase both interventions. Prescribed fire affects whole landscapes and therefore reduces losses from all wildfire types (including lightning), whereas wildfire prevention education reduces only human-caused ignitions. However, prescribed fire offers a longer-term solution with little short-term flexibility. Wildfire prevention education programs, by comparison, are more flexible, both in time and space, and can respond to unexpected outbreaks, but with limited mitigation longevity. Only when used together in a coordinated effort do we find the costs and losses from unintentional wildfires are minimised.