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Multiple social and environmental factors affect wildland fire response of full or less-than-full suppression

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Wildland fire incident commanders make wildfire response decisions within an increasingly complex socio-environmental context. Threats to human safety and property, along with public pressures and agency cultures, often lead commanders to emphasize full suppression. However, commanders may use less-than-full suppression to enhance responder safety, reduce firefighting costs, and encourage beneficial effects of fire. This study asks: what management, socioeconomic, environmental, and fire behavior characteristics are associated with full suppression and the less-than-full suppression methods of point-zone protection, confinement/containment, and maintain/monitor? We analyzed incident report data from 374 wildfires in the United States northern Rocky Mountains between 2008 and 2013. Regression models showed that full suppression was most strongly associated with higher housing density and earlier dates in the calendar year, along with non-federal land jurisdiction, regional and national incident management teams, human-caused ignitions, low fire-growth potential, and greater fire size. Interviews with commanders provided decision-making context for these regression results. Future efforts to encourage less-than-full suppression should address the complex management context, in addition to the biophysical context, of fire response.


Molly C Daniels, Kristin H Braziunas, Monica G Turner, Ting-Fung Ma, Karen C Short, Adena R Rissman

Daniels MC, Braziunas KH, Turner MG, Ma TF, Short KC, Rissman AR. Multiple social and environmental factors affect wildland fire response of full or less-than-full suppression. J Environ Manage. 2024 Feb;351:119731. doi: 10.1016/j.jenvman.2023.119731. Epub 2024 Jan 1. PMID: 38169249.

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