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Risk preferences, probability weighting, and strategy tradeoffs in wildfire management




Publication type:

Scientific Journal (JRNL)

Primary Station(s):

Rocky Mountain Research Station


Risk Analysis. 35(10): 1876-1891.


Wildfires present a complex applied risk management environment, but relatively little attention has been paid to behavioral and cognitive responses to risk among public agency wildfire managers. This study investigates responses to risk, including probability weighting and risk aversion, in a wildfire management context using a survey-based experiment administered to federal wildfire managers. Respondents were presented with a multi-attribute lottery-choice experiment where each lottery is defined by three outcome attributes: expenditures for fire suppression, damage to private property, and exposure of firefighters to the risk of aviation-related fatalities. Respondents choose one of two strategies, each of which includes "good" (low cost/low damage) and "bad" (high cost/high damage) outcomes that occur with varying probabilities. The choice task also incorporates an information framing experiment to test whether information about fatality risk to firefighters alters managers’ responses to risk. Results suggest that managers exhibit risk aversion and nonlinear probability weighting, which can result in choices that do not minimize expected expenditures, property damage, or firefighter exposure. Information framing tends to result in choices that reduce the risk of aviation fatalities, but exacerbates nonlinear probability weighting.


Hand, Michael S.; Wibbenmeyer, Matthew J.; Calkin, David E.; Thompson, Matthew P. 2015. Risk preferences, probability weighting, and strategy tradeoffs in wildfire management. Risk Analysis. 35(10): 1876-1891.


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