Sponsor: Southwest Fire Science Consortium
Presenters: Stephen D. Fillmore, PhD Student, University of Idaho and Dr. Sarah McCaffrey, Research Social Scientist, USFS Rocky Mountain Research Station
To improve understanding of the managed wildfire decision-making process on federal lands (USA), we conducted a mixed methods review of the existing literature. The review was published in September, 2021 in the journal Fire. The review spanned from 1976 to 2013 and used thematic coding to identify the key factors affecting the decision to manage a wildfire, or not. A total of 110 descriptive factors that affected managed fire decision making were identified. These factors were classified into six key thematic groups, which addressed specific decision considerations. This nexus of factors and decision pathways formed what we present as the ‘Managed Fire Decision Framework’, which contextualizes important pressures, barriers, and facilitators related to managed wildfire decision-making. In the presentation, we will present the contributing factors, the Managed Fire Decision Framework, explain its potential usage, and describe how it may be useful for managed fire decisions as well as future research efforts. We will also discuss the most prevalent barriers and facilitators to managed fire decision making.
We will also briefly discuss our ongoing research. During the wildfire season of 2021 we conducted a series of interviews with Forest Service line officers, fire managers, firefighters, and members of the public from across the country. We spoke with people within the context of ongoing wildfires which included a mix of wildfires that were being managed with a strategy other than full suppression (managed) as well as those being fully suppressed. The purpose of our research was to explore a hypothesis that had arisen out of our earlier investigations, as well as operational experience, where we observed inherent sociopolitical aversity to managing wildfires for any objective other than suppression. In this research, we leveraged our previously published Managed Fire Decision Framework to investigate the hypothesis that decision makers have a harder time making the decision to manage a wildfire, have a harder time discussing it openly, and feel disincentivized to adopt a strategy that is not attempting to fully suppress the wildfire.