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Project

Principal Investigator(s):
  • Joseph M. Little
    University of Alaska Fairbanks
Co-Principal Investigator(s):
Completion Date: December 18, 2018

Wildland fire is the dominant disturbance agent of the boreal forest of Alaska, which covers about 114 million ac. of the southcentral and interior regions, representing about 15% of the forested area of the U.S. Currently, about 80% of the population of Alaska resides in communities potentially at risk from wildland fire. The wildland fire threat to these settlements is increasing, because more of the population is living in dispersed or suburban settlements in or near forested areas and because of warmer summers and longer fire seasons. Dispersed and isolated settlements are more difficult and costly to protect, so it is expected that in the future more infrastructure will be damaged by wildland fire and the public cost of fire protection will increase. Since the late 1990s, management agencies in Alaska have actively implemented fuels reduction programs, such as installation of firebreaks and shaded fuelbreaks. However, the effectiveness of these programs has not been evaluated over time anywhere in the state, so comparison of various fuels reduction techniques as well as their impact on local communities is currently not possible. The presence of an already existing set of treatment projects, which vary by age, fuel type, treatment method, occurrence of fire, and proximity to local communities, provides a distinct opportunity to prepare a comprehensive regional assessment to answer a number of the primary research questions of interest to the JFSP. The overarching objective of this research program is to assess the effectiveness of maturing treatment projects in terms of previously defined risk reduction and fire behavior objectives. Collected data will be used to evaluate fuel loading and then to model fire behavior to determine projected burn intensity and spread. Data from the behavior models will be compared against data collected from treatment sites which have recently experienced fire. Given variance in the age, location, treatment method, and fuel type it will be possible to identify differences in actual burn severity and scale for the purpose of grounding the behavior model. In addition, we will use suppression cost data to evaluate the relationship between treatment and suppression efforts at both tactical and strategic levels. Along with identifying the direct economic effects of the treatments this project will also address how treatment efforts have indirectly impacted risk perceptions and the willingness to pursue supplementary private mitigation efforts in nearby communities. Given the shared nature of risk in the WUI, there is a defined need to encourage private mitigation efforts. A choice experiment involving homeowners living near a subset of the identified treatment sites will be conducted for the purpose of evaluating whether adjacent treatment projects have encouraged private mitigation actions and, subsequently, enhance the effectiveness of the projects themselves.

Cataloging Information

Regions:
Keywords:
  • boreal region
  • CEA - cost-effectiveness analysis
  • duration
  • economic assessment
  • fire behavior modeling
  • fuel treatments
  • mitigation
  • regional assessment
JFSP Project Number(s):
  • 14-5-01-27
Record Maintained By: FRAMES Staff (https://www.frames.gov/contact)
Record Last Modified:
FRAMES Record Number: 18260