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Risk preferences in strategic wildfire decision making: A choice experiment with U.S. wildfire managers


Matthew J. Wibbenmeyer
Tyron J. Venn



Publication type:

Scientific Journal (JRNL)

Primary Station(s):

Rocky Mountain Research Station


Risk Analysis. 33(6): 1021-1037.


Federal policy has embraced risk management as an appropriate paradigm for wildfire management. Economic theory suggests that over repeated wildfire events, potential economic costs and risks of ecological damage are optimally balanced when management decisions are free from biases, risk aversion, and risk seeking. Of primary concern in this article is how managers respond to wildfire risk, including the potential effect of wildfires (on ecological values, structures, and safety) and the likelihood of different fire outcomes. We use responses to a choice experiment questionnaire of U.S. federal wildfire managers to measure attitudes toward several components of wildfire risk and to test whether observed risk attitudes are consistent with the efficient allocation of wildfire suppression resources. Our results indicate that fire managers' decisions are consistent with nonexpected utility theories of decisions under risk. Managers may overallocate firefighting resources when the likelihood or potential magnitude of damage from fires is low, and sensitivity to changes in the probability of fire outcomes depends on whether probabilities are close to one or zero and the magnitude of the potential harm.


Wibbenmeyer, Matthew J.; Hand, Michael S.; Calkin, David E.; Venn, Tyron J.; Thompson, Matthew P. 2013. Risk preferences in strategic wildfire decision making: A choice experiment with U.S. wildfire managers. Risk Analysis. 33(6): 1021-1037.


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