Skip to Main Content
Managing wildfire events: risk-based decision making among a group of federal fire managersAuthor(s): Robyn S. Wilson; Patricia L. Winter; Lynn A. Maguire; Timothy Ascher
Source: Risk Analysis 31(5): 805-818
Publication Series: Scientific Journal (JRNL)
Station: Pacific Southwest Research Station
Download Publication (315.2 KB)
Related Research Highlights Wildfire Decision Making
DescriptionManaging wildfire events to achieve multiple management objectives involves a high degree of decision complexity and uncertainty, increasing the likelihood that decisions will be informed by experience-based heuristics triggered by available cues at the time of the decision. The research reported here tests the prevalence of three risk-based biases among 206 individuals in the USDA Forest Service with authority to choose how to manage a wildfire event (i.e., line officers and incident command personnel). The results indicate that the subjects exhibited loss aversion, choosing the safe option more often when the consequences of the choice were framed as potential gains, but this tendency was less pronounced among those with risk seeking attitudes. The subjects also exhibited discounting, choosing to minimize short-term over long-term risk due to a belief that future risk could be controlled, but this tendency was less pronounced among those with more experience. Finally, the subjects, in particular those with more experience, demonstrated a status quo bias, choosing suppression more often when their reported status quo was suppression. The results of this study point to a need to carefully construct the decision process to ensure that the uncertainty and conflicting objectives inherent in wildfire management do not result in the overuse of common heuristics. Individual attitudes toward risk or an agency culture of risk aversion may counterbalance such heuristics, whereas increased experience may lead to overconfident intuitive judgments and a failure to incorporate new and relevant information into the decision.
- You may send email to firstname.lastname@example.org to request a hard copy of this publication.
- (Please specify exactly which publication you are requesting and your mailing address.)
- We recommend that you also print this page and attach it to the printout of the article, to retain the full citation information.
- This article was written and prepared by U.S. Government employees on official time, and is therefore in the public domain.
CitationWilson, Robyn S.; Winter, Patricia L.; Maguire, Lynn A.; Ascher, Timothy. 2011. Managing wildfire events: risk-based decision making among a group of federal fire managers. Risk Analysis 31(5): 805-818.
KeywordsDiscounting, experience, loss aversion, risk attitude, wildfire
- Economic analysis of risk and choice under uncertainty in landscape planning in relation to wildfires
- Risk preferences in strategic wildfire decision making: A choice experiment with U.S. wildfire managers
- Risk preferences, probability weighting, and strategy tradeoffs in wildfire management
XML: View XML