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An assessment of geospatial technologies as used for wildland fire suppression



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Wildland fire fighting is complex due to climatic variation, risk and uncertainty, and the proximity of human and resource values. Information about fire environments, resource availability and logistics, fire behavior, and values at risk are important issues fire managers must consider in allocating scarce resources. Improved information thus, has value in reducing risk and costs and damages. Geospatial technology, which includes remote sensing tools, geographic positioning systems (GPS), geographic information systems (GIS) and various maps are widely used in wildland fire management. My research evaluates geospatial tools in three different ways: their role in risk reduction, their effect on wildland fire costs and damages, and wildland fire managers’ perceived costs and benefits. A theoretical model was developed to analyze the role of geospatial tools in reducing the risk. Risk-averse fire managers were found to use more geospatial technologies compared to those who did not incorporate risk in their decision making, resulting in a creation of value for these technologies. A simultaneous equation system of fires was estimated using the two-stage and the three-stage least squares estimation methods to examine the impact of geospatial tools on fire size, cost and damages. The effect of geospatial technology on fire size was significant in the Full Response Zone. Fire size was positively related to drought and duff moisture codes. Damages and cost of suppression were not affected significantly by the use of digitized maps. The survey of wildland fire managers revealed that geospatial tools are useful in integrating information and provide more clarity, flexibility and accuracy in decision-making. It was also discovered in the survey that geospatial tools are most commonly used when multiple fires are burning at the same time and threatening high resource values. Overall, the findings from this research indicated that risk-averse fire managers use geospatial tools more intensively; that maps play a significant role in reducing the fire size in the Full Response Zone, and, finally, the fire managers’ view that these technologies are more economically efficient in the Full Response Zone makes a case for more investment in developing and employing them on fires. Record keeping and data collection as well as understanding the human element in terms of risk aversion will be important for future studies and for adopting new technology and allocating resources efficiently.



Risk Analysis, Economics, Geospatial tools, GIS, Wildlandfire



Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


Agricultural Economics


Agricultural Economics


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