The Irrationality of Continued Fire Suppression : An Avoided Cost Analysis of Fire Hazard Reduction Treatments Versus No Treatment
Journal of Forestry
Without large-scale implementation of fire hazard reduction treatments, the costs of uncharacteristic crown fires in southwest forests will continue to increase. Federal policy continues to allocate vastly more funds to suppression than to prefire hazard reduction. We examined the economic rationality of continuing this policy of emphasizing fire suppression activities over restoration-based fire hazard reduction treatments. We compared treatment plus fire suppression costs to the cost of fire suppression without treatments over 40 years for southwestern forests. This avoided-cost analysis estimates the amount one could invest in treatments to avoid the future cost of fire suppression. Using conservative economic values, we found that avoided future costs justifies spending $238-601/ac for hazard reduction treatments in the southwest. We conclude that the policy of underfunding hazard reduction treatments dows not represent rational economic behavior, because funding hazard reduction would pay for itself by lowering future fire suppression costs.
Snider, G., Daugherty, P. and Wood, D. (2006). Irrationality of continued fire suppression : an avoided cost analysis of fire hazard reduction treatments versus no treatment. Journal of Forestry, 104(8): 431-437.