A Qualitative Study on the US Forest Service’s Risk Management Assistance Efforts to Improve Wildfire Decision-Making
1.1. Risk Management in the US Forest Service
1.2. Managing for Organizational Change
1.3. Summary and Research Questions
2. Materials and Methods
3.1. What Was the Perceived Value of RMA to the Line Officers Who Received It?
“I brought in my partners to listen to all of the presentations that were given by RMAT because my partners had all this mistrust. When I’m talking partners, I’m talking county commissioners, tribal reps, environmental leaders, industry leaders…. They all got to see [RMA data] in real time—they were in the room. That helped bridge this gap of mistrust, and it set the tone for the rest of the summer (15).”
“The challenge is all politics are local. Being able to use fire for resource benefit is really about having that conversation in a very deep way with partners, communities, well ahead of smoke in the air. RMAT can give you some intel and tools and rationale to do so (4).”
“The discussions we had with the [incident commanders] were shaped by knowledge we gained from the RMAT around what that longer-term strategy needed to be (8).”
3.2. What Individual, Organizational, and Other Local Factors Affected How Risk Management Assistance Was Used during Wildland Fire Events?
Institutional Review Board Statement
Data Availability Statement
Conflicts of Interest
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|Tool Name||Description of Tool|
|Incident Timeline||Helps justify and visually display key decisions and resource use throughout a fire event. Sample information includes fire size, cost/expenditures, number of personnel, percent containment, directed strategy, relative risk assessment, assigned incident management team, structures threatened/destroyed, and decision status.|
|Resource Timeline (added after 2018)||Similar to the incident timeline but displays the specific type of resources (such as camp crews, dozers, masticators, helicopters, and water tankers) by date. It also includes fire size, cost to date, number of personnel, and percent containment.|
|Management Direction Alignment Table||Helps decision-makers ensure that incident objectives, Wildland Fire Decision-Support System course of action, leader’s intent, and the incident action plan align with the unit’s land and resource management plan(s). Sample categories or emphasis areas include general fire management, safety/risk management, cultural resources, infrastructure/private property, smoke, silviculture/vegetation ecology, wildlife/fisheries, soils, range, wilderness, and watershed.|
|Course of Action, Trade-off Analysis Exercise||Provides the framework for helping decision-makers systematically consider tradeoffs around different fire-management strategies; supports selecting an appropriate course of action based on ratings of risks to firefighters, public safety, and other values identified by decision-makers.|
|Aviation Use Summary||Helps decision-makers quantify and track aviation use on a fire. It spatially tracks the use of different types of aircraft, including helicopters, large air tankers, and scoopers. The information displayed can track the use of retardant and help guide subsequent analysis of the associated environmental impacts.|
|Suppression Difficulty Index (SDI) Map||Displays how complex wildfire-related operations may be based on factors such as modeled fire behavior, responder mobility, available fuel breaks, and time to create line. Higher values on the SDI scale indicate more hazardous situations or areas .|
|Potential Control Locations (PCL) Map||Shows the likelihood of fire stopping in a given area based on historical fire perimeters and other model drivers (such as fuel transitions, road networks, rate of spread, and suppression difficulty). Higher probabilities indicate better containment opportunities under current fire conditions [16,17].|
|Season-ending Analysis (added after 2018)||Describes the probability of a season-ending event, such as pulses of rain or snow, lower temperatures, and higher relative humidity.|
|Mop-up Hazard Map (known as the Snag Hazard Map before 2019)||Helps reduce firefighter exposure and costs by identifying hazardous conditions (slopes, overstory vegetation) to avoid. Fire intensity data also helps prioritize areas for mop-up. Snag hazard is estimated using a mathematical relationship between Forest Inventory plot data and landscape characteristics .|
|Ground Evacuation Map and Injury/Illness Information||Provides travel time estimates from different locations in the proximity of a fire to the nearest care facility. It accounts for considerations such as road availability or conditions, slope, vegetation type, and driving speeds. These maps can also include updated information about injuries and illnesses associated with the fire.|
|Exceedance Probability Curves||Uses information from regional Quantitative Wildfire Risk Assessments (QWRA) and Fire Spread Probability (FSPro) outputs to estimate the probability of a fire reaching highly valued resources within a given time period. The curves allow for the comparison of incidents relative to one another regarding likely outcomes (positive and negative), such as which fires in a given time frame have the highest likelihood of loss or ecological benefit. The information helps prioritize resources based on risk [19,20].|
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Schultz, C.A.; Miller, L.F.; Greiner, S.M.; Kooistra, C. A Qualitative Study on the US Forest Service’s Risk Management Assistance Efforts to Improve Wildfire Decision-Making. Forests 2021, 12, 344. https://doi.org/10.3390/f12030344
Schultz CA, Miller LF, Greiner SM, Kooistra C. A Qualitative Study on the US Forest Service’s Risk Management Assistance Efforts to Improve Wildfire Decision-Making. Forests. 2021; 12(3):344. https://doi.org/10.3390/f12030344Chicago/Turabian Style
Schultz, Courtney A., Lauren F. Miller, Sarah Michelle Greiner, and Chad Kooistra. 2021. "A Qualitative Study on the US Forest Service’s Risk Management Assistance Efforts to Improve Wildfire Decision-Making" Forests 12, no. 3: 344. https://doi.org/10.3390/f12030344