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Suppression resource use, cost, and effectiveness

January, 2015


DC-10 airtanker dropping redardant (photo from, Wallow Fire 2011).
DC-10 airtanker dropping redardant (photo from, Wallow Fire 2011).


The cost of large fire management continues to rise with large fire management expenditures exceeding the allocated budget by over $700 million in 2015. Despite the scale of investment, little is known about how suppression resources affect large fire containment, and there remains considerable variation among fires in their relative costs. The Wildfire Risk Management Team leads the research community in understanding the factors that affect fire management expenditures and the effectiveness of suppression resources in achieving stated objectives.


The Wildfire Risk Management Team is exploring economic issues related to cost and effectiveness of using suppression resources to manage wildland fires. Fiscal year 2015 activities included the development of innovative research to examine the relative contribution of suppression resources along with landscape and fire weather conditions in controlling the perimeters of large wildfires.

The team also conducted research on factors determining the level of suppression resource use across incidents and incident management teams, and the use of suppression resources to effectively contain fire growth.

Ongoing research efforts include analyses of initial attack success rates to better predict conditions under which potentially large and costly fires can (and cannot) be contained in initial attack efforts, and the tradeoffs associated with using different types of suppression resources to contain fires during initial attack.


Stonesifer, Crystal S. ; Thompson, Matthew P. ; Calkin, Dave E. ; McHugh, Charles W. , 2015

National Strategic Program Areas: 
Wildland Fire and Fuels
National Priority Research Areas: 
Forest Disturbances
RMRS Science Program Areas: 
Human Dimensions
RMRS Strategic Priorities: 
Fire Sciences
Project Contact: 

Principal Investigators:
Research Staff: