Year of Publication
In the current century, wildfires have shown an increasing trend, causing a huge amount of direct and indirect losses in society. Different methods and efforts have been employed to reduce the frequency and intensity of the damages, one of which is implementing prescribed fires. Previous works have established that prescribed fires are effective at reducing the damage caused by wildfires. However, the actual impact of prescribed fire programs is dependent on factors such as where and when prescribed fires are conducted. In this paper, we propose a novel data-driven model studying the impact of prescribed fire as a mitigation technique for wildfires to minimize the total costs and losses. This is applied to states in the USA to perform a comparative analysis of the impact of prescribed fires from 2003 to 2017 and to identify the optimal scale of the impactful prescribed fire programs using least-cost optimization. The fifty US states are classified into categories based on impact and risk levels. Measures that could be taken to improve different prescribed fire programs are discussed. Our results show that California and Oregon are the only severe-risk US states to conduct prescribed fire programs that are impactful at reducing wildfire risks, while other southeastern states such as Florida maintain fire-healthy ecosystems with very extensive prescribed fire programs. Our study suggests that states that have impactful prescribed fire programs (like California) should increase their scale of operation, while states that burn prescribed fires with no impact (like Nevada) should change the way prescribed burning is planned and conducted.
Jose E, Agarwal P, Zhuang J. A data‐driven analysis and optimization of the impact of prescribed fire programs on wildfire risk in different regions of the USA. Natural Hazards. 2023 .