Potential operational delineations: new horizons for proactive, risk-informed strategic land and fire management

TitlePotential operational delineations: new horizons for proactive, risk-informed strategic land and fire management
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2022
AuthorsThompson, MP, O’Connor, CD, Gannon, BM, Caggiano, MD, Dunn, CJ, Schultz, CA, Calkin, DE, Pietruszka, B, S. Greiner, M, Stratton, R, Morisette, JT
JournalFire Ecology
Date Published08/2022
KeywordsBoundary spanning, climate change, Incident response, modeling, Performance measurement, planning, prioritization, risk, technical reports and journal articles, Technology transfer


The PODs (potential operational delineations) concept is an adaptive framework for cross-boundary and collaborative land and fire management planning. Use of PODs is increasingly recognized as a best practice, and PODs are seeing growing interest from federal, state, local, tribal, and non-governmental organizations. Early evidence suggests PODs provide utility for planning, communication, coordination, prioritization, incident response strategy development, and fuels mitigation and forest restoration. Recent legislative action codifies the importance of PODs by devoting substantial financial resources to their expansion. The intent of this paper is to explore new horizons that would help land and fire management organizations better address risks and capitalize on opportunities. Specifically, we focus on how PODs are a natural platform for improvement related to two core elements of risk management: how we leverage preparation and foresight to better prepare for the future; and how we learn from the past to better understand and improve performance and its alignment with strategy.


We organize our exploration of new horizons around three key areas, suggesting that PODs can enable climate-smart forest and fire management and planning, inform more agile and adaptive allocation of suppression resources, and enable risk-informed performance measurement. These efforts can be synergistic and self-reinforcing, and we argue that expanded application of PODs at local levels could enhance the performance of the broader wildland fire system. We provide rationales for each problem area and offer growth opportunities with attendant explanations and illustrations.


With commitment and careful effort, PODs can provide rich opportunities for innovation in both backward-looking evaluative and forward-looking anticipatory frameworks. In addition to continued improvement of core PODs elements, attention must be paid to being more inclusive and participatory in PODs planning, to building sufficient capacity to expand PODs applications in meaningful boundary spanning ways, to ensure their continuity and relevance over time through maintenance and updating, and to deliver necessary information to responders to inform the effective management of wildfires. Lastly, ongoing monitoring and evaluation of PODs and related initiatives is essential to support organizational learning and continual improvement.