The cost-effectiveness of satellite earth observations to inform a post-wildfire response
Document Type: Report
Author(s): Richard Bernknopf; Yusuke Kuwayama; Reily Gibson; Jessica Blakely; Bethany Mabee; T. J. Clifford; Brad Quayle; Justin Epting; Terry Hardy; David C. Goodrich
Publication Year: 2019

Cataloging Information

  • BAER - Burned Area Emergency Response
  • BARC - Burned Area Reflectance Classification
  • burn severity
  • Landsat
  • remote sensing
  • value of information
  • VAR - values-at-risk
Record Maintained By:
Record Last Modified: July 7, 2020
FRAMES Record Number: 61495


We use a value of information (VOI) approach to demonstrate the cost effectiveness of using satellite imagery as part of Burn Area Emergency Response (BAER), a federal program that identifies imminent post-wildfire threats to human life and safety, property, and critical natural or cultural resources. We compare the costs associated with the production of a Burn Area Reflectance Classification (BARC) map and implementation of a BAER response when imagery from satellites (either Landsat or a commercial satellite) is available to the costs of BARC map production and BAER response when the BAER team relies on information collected solely by aerial reconnaissance. The case study includes two evaluations with and without BARC products: (a) costs and cost savings for a specific wildfire incident request and (b) costs and cost savings of a multi-incident BARC map production program. In both cases, satellite imagery, and in particular, Landsat is the most cost-effective way to input burn severity information into the BAER program, with cost savings of up to $35 million over a five-year period.

Online Link(s):
Bernknopf, Richard; Kuwayama, Yusuke; Gibson, Reily; Blakely, Jessica; Mabee, Bethany; Clifford, T. J.; Quayle, Brad; Epting, Justin; Hardy, Terry; Goodrich, David. 2019. The cost-effectiveness of satellite earth observations to inform a post-wildfire response. Working Paper 19-16. Washington, D.C.: Resources for the Future. 22 p.