Effect of fire prevention programs on accidental and incendiary wildfires on tribal lands in the United States


Humans cause more than 55% of wildfires on lands managed by the USDA Forest Service and US Department of the Interior, contributing to both suppression expenditures and damages. One means to reduce the expenditures and damages associated with these wildfires is through fire prevention activities, which can include burn permits, public service programs or announcements, outreach efforts to schools, youth groups and equipment operators, and law enforcement. Using data from 17 US Bureau of Indian Affairs tribal units, we modeled the effect of prevention programs and law enforcement on the number of human-caused ignitions. We also included weather and lagged burned area in our estimation of fixed-effects count models. The results show that prevention activities led to significant reductions in wildfires caused by escaped campfires, juveniles, fire-use (e.g. escaped debris burns) and equipment. Increased law enforcement resulted in fewer incendiary- and equipment-caused wildfires. Using average suppression expenditures by wildfire and our estimate of avoided wildfires per additional year of prevention, we estimate partial benefit–cost ratios of greater than 4.5 for all Bureau of Indian Affairs regions for the continuation of the prevention program..

  • Citation: Abt, Karen L.; Butry, David T.; Prestemon, Jeffrey P.; Scranton, Samuel. 2015. Effect of fire prevention programs on accidental and incendiary wildfires on tribal lands in the United States. International Journal of Wildland Fire. 24(6): 749-762.
  • Keywords: arson wildfires, instrumental variables methods, intervention analysis, law enforcement, wildfire suppression.
  • Posted Date: October 14, 2015
  • Modified Date: August 23, 2016
  • Print Publications Are No Longer Available

    In an ongoing effort to be fiscally responsible, the Southern Research Station (SRS) will no longer produce and distribute hard copies of our publications. Many SRS publications are available at cost via the Government Printing Office (GPO). Electronic versions of publications may be downloaded, printed, and distributed.

    Publication Notes

    • This article was written and prepared by U.S. Government employees on official time, and is therefore in the public domain.
    • Our online publications are scanned and captured using Adobe Acrobat. During the capture process some typographical errors may occur. Please contact the SRS webmaster if you notice any errors which make this publication unusable.
    • To view this article, download the latest version of Adobe Acrobat Reader.