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Dave E. Calkin

Research Forester

800 East Beckwith Avenue
Missoula, MT 59801-5801
Contact Dave E. Calkin

Current Research

My research broadly focuses on economic aspects of wildland fire and fuels management with specific research interests including: 1) wildland fire risk assessment, 2) identification of values-at-risk to wildland fire, 3) decision support system development, 4) performance measurement of wildland fire suppression, 5) modeling and forecasting of wildfire suppression costs, and 6) social and managerial tradeoffs among resources affected by fire management

Research Interests

My research interest are in exploring opportunities where economic tools can be brought to bear to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of wiland fire management programs and incident decision making.

Past Research

Currently fire mangement represents over 50 percent of the USFS budget and significantly impacts the Agency's ability to meet its core goal of caring for the land and the people. A number of challenges restrict our ability to assure that fire management investments are economically justified. Risk assessment tools present opportunities to consistently measure the current effectiveness of fire management activities and economic analysis can inform appropriate investment structures to protect both developed and highly valued natural resources.

Why This Research is Important

1. Developed the Rapid Assessment of Values At Risk (RAVAR) model, the economic impact module of the Wildland Fire Decision Support System WFDSS. 2. Authored and co-authored several papers reviewing factors influencing fire and fuels mangement costs. 3. Primary Investigator of a study that resulted in the development of valuation tools for Burned Area Emergency Response teams. 4. Investigated issues associated with the cost and efficiency of biomass utilization and associated carbon impacts.


  • University of Virginia, B.S., Applied Mathematics, 1988
  • University of Montana, M.S., Natural Resource Conservation, 1994
  • Oregon State University, Ph.D., Economics, 2000
  • Featured Publications


    Dunn, Christopher J.; O'Connor, Christopher D.; Reilly, Matthew J.; Calkin, Dave E.; Thompson, Matthew P., 2019. Spatial and temporal assessment of responder exposure to snag hazards in post-fire environments
    Riley, Karin; Williams, A. Park; Urbanski, Shawn P.; Calkin, Dave E.; Short, Karen C.; O'Connor, Christopher D., 2019. Will landscape fire increase in the future? A systems approach to climate, fire, fuel, and human drivers
    Belval, Erin J.; Calkin, Dave E.; Wei, Yu; Stonesifer, Crystal S.; Thompson, Matthew P.; Masarie, Alex, 2018. Examining dispatching practices for Interagency Hotshot Crews to reduce seasonal travel distance and manage fatigue
    Thompson, Matthew P.; MacGregor, Donald G.; Dunn, Christopher J.; Calkin, Dave E.; Phipps, John, 2018. Rethinking the wildland fire management system
    Thompson, Matthew P.; Lauer, Christopher J.; Calkin, Dave E.; Rieck, Jon; Stonesifer, Crystal S.; Hand, Michael, 2018. Wildfire response performance measurement: Current and future directions
    Dunn, Christopher J.; Thompson, Matthew P.; Calkin, Dave E., 2017. A framework for developing safe and effective large-fire response in a new fire management paradigm
    Thompson, Matthew P.; Silva, Francisco Rodriguez y; Calkin, Dave E.; Hand, Michael, 2017. A review of challenges to determining and demonstrating efficiency of large fire management
    Belval, Erin J.; Wei, Yu; Calkin, Dave E.; Stonesifer, Crystal S.; Thompson, Matthew P.; Tipton, John R., 2017. Studying interregional wildland fire engine assignments for large fire suppression
    Thompson, Matthew P.; Dunn, Christopher J.; Calkin, Dave E., 2017. Systems thinking and wildland fire management
    Hand, Michael; Katuwal, Hari; Calkin, Dave E.; Thompson, Matthew P., 2017. The influence of incident management teams on the deployment of wildfire suppression resources
    Dunn, Christopher J.; Calkin, Dave E.; Thompson, Matthew P., 2017. Towards enhanced risk management: Planning, decision making and monitoring of US wildfire response
    Wei, Yu; Belval, Erin J.; Thompson, Matthew P.; Calkin, Dave E.; Stonesifer, Crystal S., 2016. A simulation and optimisation procedure to model daily suppression resource transfers during a fire season in Colorado
    Prestemon, Jeff; Kruger, Linda; Abt, Karen L.; Bowker, Michael; Brandeis, Consuelo; Calkin, Dave E.; Donovan, Geoffrey H.; Ham, Charlotte; Holmes, Thomas P.; Kline, Jeffrey; Warziniack, Travis, 2016. Economics and societal considerations of drought
    Preisler, Haiganoush K.; Riley, Karin; Stonesifer, Crystal S.; Calkin, Dave E.; Jolly, William M., 2016. Near-term probabilistic forecast of significant wildfire events for the Western United States
    Thompson, Matthew P.; Freeborn, Patrick; Rieck, Jon; Calkin, Dave E.; Gilbertson-Day, Julie W.; Cochrane, Mark A.; Hand, Michael, 2016. Quantifying the influence of previously burned areas on suppression effectiveness and avoided exposure: A case study of the Las Conchas Fire
    Thompson, Matthew P.; MacGregor, Donald G.; Calkin, Dave E., 2016. Risk management: Core principles and practices, and their relevance to wildland fire
    Riley, Karin; Stonesifer, Crystal S.; Calkin, Dave E.; Preisler, Haiganoush, 2015. Assessing predictive services' 7-day fire potential outlook
    Stonesifer, Crystal S.; Thompson, Matthew P.; Calkin, Dave E.; McHugh, Charles W., 2015. Characterizing large airtanker use in United States fire management
    Thompson, Matthew P.; Haas, Jessica R.; Gilbertson-Day, Julie W.; Scott, Joe H.; Langowski, Paul; Bowne, Elise; Calkin, Dave E., 2015. Development and application of a geospatial wildfire exposure and risk calculation tool
    Thompson, Matthew P.; Haas, Jessica R.; Finney, Mark A.; Calkin, Dave E.; Hand, Michael; Browne, Mark J.; Halek, Martin; Short, Karen C.; Grenfell, Isaac C., 2015. Development and application of a probabilistic method for wildfire suppression cost modeling
    Calkin, Dave E.; Thompson, Matthew P.; Finney, Mark A., 2015. Negative consequences of positive feedbacks in US wildfire management
    Hand, Michael; Wibbenmeyer, Matthew J.; Calkin, Dave E.; Thompson, Matthew P., 2015. Risk preferences, probability weighting, and strategy tradeoffs in wildfire management
    Thompson, Matthew P.; Dunn, Christopher; Calkin, Dave E., 2015. Wildfires: Systemic changes required
    Stonesifer, Crystal S.; Calkin, Dave E.; Thompson, Matthew P.; Kaiden, Jeffrey D., 2014. Developing an aviation exposure index to inform risk-based fire management decisions
    Hand, Michael; Gebert, Krista M.; Liang, Jingjing; Calkin, Dave E.; Thompson, Matthew P.; Zhou, Mo, 2014. Economics of wildfire management: The development and application of suppression expenditure models
    Calkin, Dave E.; ; Finney, Mark A.; Thompson, Matthew P., 2014. How risk management can prevent future wildfire disasters in the wildland-urban interface
    Calkin, Dave E.; Stonesifer, Crystal S.; Thompson, Matthew P.; McHugh, Charles W., 2014. Large airtanker use and outcomes in suppressing wildland fires in the United States
    Ager, Alan; Day, Michelle A.; McHugh, Charles W.; Short, Karen C.; Gilbertson-Day, Julie; Finney, Mark A.; Calkin, Dave E., 2014. Wildfire exposure and fuel management on western US national forests
    Haas, Jessica R.; Calkin, Dave E.; Thompson, Matthew P., 2014. Wildfire risk transmission in the Colorado Front Range, USA
    Thompson, Matthew P.; Calkin, Dave E.; Finney, Mark A.; Gebert, Krista M.; Hand, Michael, 2013. A risk-based approach to wildland fire budgetary planning
    Scott, Joe H.; Thompson, Matthew P.; Calkin, Dave E., 2013. A wildfire risk assessment framework for land and resource management
    Houtman, Rachel M.; Montgomery, Claire A.; Gagnon, Aaron R.; Calkin, Dave E.; Dietterich, Thomas G.; McGregor, Sean; Crowley, Mark, 2013. Allowing a wildfire to burn: estimating the effect on future fire suppression costs
    Hyde, Kevin; Dickinson, Matthew B.; Bohrer, Gil; Calkin, Dave E.; Evers, Louisa; Gilbertson-Day, Julie; Nicolet, Tessa; Ryan, Kevin; Tague, Christina, 2013. Research and development supporting risk-based wildfire effects prediction for fuels and fire management: Status and needs
    Wibbenmeyer, Matthew J.; Hand, Michael; Calkin, Dave E.; Venn, Tyron J.; Thompson, Matthew P., 2013. Risk preferences in strategic wildfire decision making: A choice experiment with U.S. wildfire managers
    Chung, Woodam; Venn, Tyron J.; Loeffler, Dan; Jones, Greg; Han, Han-Sup; Calkin, Dave E., 2012. Assessing the potential for log sort yards to improve financial viability of forest restoration treatments
    Calkin, Dave E.; Venn, Tyron; Wibbenmeyer, Matthew; Thompson, Matthew P., 2012. Estimating US federal wildland fire managers' preferences toward competing strategic suppression objectives
    Graham, Russell T.; Finney, Mark A.; McHugh, Chuck; ; Calkin, Dave E.; Stratton, Rick; Bradshaw, Larry S.; Nikolov, Nedialko T., 2012. Fourmile Canyon Fire Findings
    Scott, Joe; Helmbrecht, Don; Thompson, Matthew P.; Calkin, Dave E.; Marcille, Kate, 2012. Probabilistic assessment of wildfire hazard and municipal watershed exposure
    Malcolm, Karl; Thompson, Matthew P.; Calkin, Dave E.; Finney, Mark A.; Ager, Alan, 2012. Science You Can Use Bulletin: Wildfire triage: Targeting mitigation based on social, economic, and ecological values
    Thompson, Matthew P.; Ager, Alan A.; Finney, Mark A.; Calkin, Dave E.; Vaillant, Nicole M., 2012. The science and opportunity of wildfire risk assessment (Chapter 6)
    Calkin, Dave E.; Thompson, Matthew P.; Finney, Mark A.; Hyde, Kevin D., 2011. A real-time risk assessment tool supporting wildland fire decisionmaking
    Thompson, Matthew P.; Calkin, Dave E.; Gilbertson-Day, Julie W.; Ager, Alan A., 2011. Advancing effects analysis for integrated, large-scale wildfire risk assessment
    Noonan-Wright, Erin; Opperman, Tonja S.; Finney, Mark A.; Zimmerman, Tom; Seli, Robert C.; Elenz, Lisa M.; Calkin, Dave E.; Fiedler, John R., 2011. Developing the U.S. Wildland Fire Decision Support System
    Han, Han-Sup; Bilek, E. M. (Ted); Dramm, John (Rusty); Loeffler, Dan; Calkin, Dave E., 2011. Financial feasibility of a log sort yard handling small-diameter logs: A preliminary study
    Calkin, Dave E.; Finney, Mark A.; Ager, Alan A.; Thompson, Matthew P.; Gebert, Krista M., 2011. Progress towards and barriers to implementation of a risk framework for US federal wildland fire policy and decision making
    Calkin, Dave E.; Phipps, John; Holmes, Tom; Rieck, Jon; Thompson, Matthew P., 2011. The Exposure Index: Developing firefighter safety performance measures
    Lai, Katherine J.; Gomes, Carla P.; Schwartz, Michael K.; McKelvey, Kevin S.; Calkin, Dave E.; Montgomery, Claire A., 2011. The Steiner Multigraph Problem: Wildlife corridor design for multiple species
    Thompson, Matthew P.; Calkin, Dave E., 2011. Uncertainty and risk in wildland fire management: A review
    Calkin, Dave E.; Thompson, Matthew P.; Ager, Alan A.; Finney, Mark A., 2010. Barriers to implementation of risk management for federal wildland fire management agencies in the United States
    Silverstein, Robin; Loeffler, Dan; Jones, J. Greg; Calkin, Dave E.; Zuuring, Hans; Twer, Martin, 2009. Chip and truck: Comparing the cost of using trees to heat buildings
    Calkin, Dave E.; Gebert, Krista, 2009. Economics of wildland fire management
    Liang, Jingjing; Calkin, Dave E.; Gebert, Krista M.; Venn, Tyron J.; Silverstein, Robin P., 2008. Factors influencing large wildland fire suppression expenditures
    Silverstein, Robin P.; Loeffler, Dan; Jones, J. Greg; Calkin, Dave E.; Zuuring, Hans R.; Twer, Martin, 2006. Biomass utilization modeling on the Bitterroot National Forest
    Ritter, Sharon; Canton-Thompson, Janie; Jones, Greg; McCaughey, Ward; Calkin, Dave E.; Harrington, Mick; Kolb, Peter; Hollingsworth, LaWen T.; Jensen, Joe; Knotek, Katie; Thompson, Brooke, 2005. ECO-Report - Scale matters - some thoughts on landscape sustainability
    Mt. Jefferson, covered in snow, is highly visible behind a burned section of pine trees.
    A new tool developed through collaboration between RMRS and researchers at Oregon State University tracks treefall through time and may just save lives. Researchers found that snag hazard to fire responders decreased significantly 10-years post fire, but that in some areas, unsafe conditions could last as long as 35 years. Maps of snag hazard risk can be used by decision makers and fire responders to reduce exposure and improve the safety of wildfire response.
    Rocky Mountain Research Station scientists have developed a simulation system designed to estimate wildfire risk for Fire Planning Units (FPUs) across the conterminous United States. This research demonstrates a practical approach to using fire simulations at very broad scales for operational planning and ecological research. Findings are being used in national wildfire decision support applications such as the Forest Service and Department of Interior Hazardous Fuel Prioritization and Allocation System, and to create national maps of wildfire potential. 
    Rocky Mountain Research Station scientists affiliated with the National Fire Decision Support Center worked closely with the Agency's Western and Eastern Threat Centers to develop novel methods to assess wildfire risk to communities, watersheds, and wildlife habitat, and to developed, natural, and cultural resources. 
    The role of large airtankers (LATs) in fire suppression in the United States has been the source of debate and discussion in recent years. Using drop location data from 2010-2012 for the conterminous U.S., we linked retardant drops to fire occurrence and resource ordering records to identify whether LATs were used during initial attack, and if so, whether or not the fire was contained at the initial attack phase.
    Using structured decision making (SDM) can change how resource managers make decisions by separating the clinical problem analysis from the value based decision process. In a natural resource management setting, SDM necessitates making decisions based on clearly articulated objectives, recognizing scientific prediction in decisions, addressing uncertainty explicitly, and responding with transparency towards societal values in decision making. When used as an overarching framework, natural resource managers can be better equipped to identify, critique, and discuss sources and implications of uncertainty and thus improve decision-making.
    Large wildfires are inherently more complex; often affecting multiple jurisdictions and requiring a balance of strategic long-term planning and nimble tactical solutions to meet dynamic conditions on the ground. With this increase in complexity comes increased uncertainty.
    In 2015, analysts with Fire Modeling Institute (FMI) continued to be involved with application of a wildfire risk assessment framework developed largely by RMRS scientists from both the Fire, Fuel, and Smoke Science Program and the Human Dimensions Program. The risk assessment framework is useful for multiple reasons: it provides a means to assess the potential risk posed by wildfire to specific highly valued resources and assets (HVRAs) across large landscapes, and it also provides a scientifically-based foundation for fire managers to think strategically and proactively about how to best manage fire and fuels on their landscapes in a way that integrates with broader land and resource management goals.  
    Effective and efficient risk based management requires integrated knowledge, systems and planning tools that explore the interaction of the full range of land and fire management activities. The Wildfire Risk Management Team is working with managers to develop and demonstrate the power of integrating fire-risk science across the full range of fire management activities from local to national scales. Improved linkages between landscape fire potential and land management objectives will have profound effects on the efficiency of the full range of fire management activities. 
    Although wildfires are inevitable, the destruction of homes, ecosystems, and lives is not. How can land management agencies, first responders, and affected communities who face the inevitability of wildfires reduce the potential for loss? Decision science and risk management are key principles in the effort to lower wildfire risks. In concert with the spatial risk assessment framework, the Wildfire Risk Management Team is exploring how principles of risk management, and resiliency and structured decision making can be applied to improve the effectiveness and safety of fire management.
    Each year thousands of wildfires occur within the United States. Increased federal spending on large wildfire management has become a growing concern to Congress, to state and federal agencies, and to the public. The Wildfire Risk Management Team is undertaking a series of empirical studies from recent wildfires that track daily resource use, including aviation and ground-based fire suppression resources, to asses the effects of resource use on wildfire containment under a range of environmental conditions.
    Wildfire management involves significant complexity and uncertainty, requiring simultaneous consideration of multiple, non-commensurate objectives. There needs to exist a systems-level understanding of the fire management systems. The Wildfire Risk Management Team is examining the biases in perceiving and managing risk, and in particular how fire managers jointly consider wildfire probability contours, suppression strategy likelihood of success, and values at risk.
    The Wildfire Risk Management Team is developing and applying empirically driven models of firefighting resource effectiveness considering resource type, mission objective, and incident characteristics to improve the efficiency of wildfire management. The team surveyed federal fire managers, operations personnel, and line officers responsible for ordering suppression resources to characterize ordering patterns and perceptions related to resource importance, scarcity, and substitutability. With this survey, researchers explore how the results affect tradeoff analyses, operational efficiency, and risk management practices in federal fire management.
    The cost and cost effectiveness of wildfire suppression efforts have recently been scrutinized due to increased suppression expenditures in the United States. This scrutiny has resulted in increased pressure to balance the costs, benefits, and risks of wildland fire management. The Wildfire Risk Management Team is using econometric modeling to empirically examine various aspects of wildland fire management expenditures such as identifying and examining factors related to suppression expenditures, and analyzing trends to better forecast suppression expenditures.
    Effective and efficient risk-based management requires integrated knowledge, systems and planning tools that explore the interaction of the full range of land and fire management activities. The Wildfire Risk Management team is working to develop and demonstrate the power of integrating fire-risk science across the full range of fire management activities. This work will include the first pilot study of changes in wildfire risk across time, using the prototype LANDFIRE time series dataset, created specifically for the study landscape.


    National Strategic Program Areas: 
    Wildland Fire and Fuels; Outdoor Recreation; Water, Air, and Soil
    RMRS Science Program Areas: 
    Human Dimensions