This research provides wildfire specialists with tools for estimating the cost of conducting various types of wildfire fuel treatments. The dependent variable in the cost regression is what the USDA Forest Service calls Planned Direct cost per acre. Independent variables included the setting in which the fuel treatment took place (e.g., the wildland-urban interface (WUI) and Metropolitan area), acres of the treatment and the specific fuel reduction activity. The primary data for the analysis came from the Forest Service Activities System (FACTS). Separate models were estimated for activities related to or conducted as part of prescribed burning fuel reduction projects and for mechanical fuel reduction activities. In addition, California is split into two Geographic Areas Coordination Center (GACC): Southern California and Northern California GACCs. Not surprisingly, costs of performing prescribed burning and mechanical fuel reduction are higher in WUI areas and in Metro areas where labor costs are higher. The explanatory power (R2) of the models is 12% to 24%. An Excel spreadsheet program has been built to allow managers to easily use the four regression models to estimate the cost of any specific fuel treatment program on the land. The user selects up to three FACTS fuel treatment(s) being proposed, whether the fuel treatment is in Northern or Southern California GACC, then the specific county of the treatment, and whether the proposed treatment is in a WUI area. Based on this selection the spreadsheet model utilizes the respective regression model to provide an estimate of the cost per acre for each FACTS activity and the total treatment cost reflecting the number of acres of the project that the user has previously specified. The spreadsheet adds up the costs for each FACTS activity that the overall fuels treatment project would entail. The model has been “tested” with fire specialists in California who felt it was a useful tool to aid in estimating the costs of fuel reduction projects.
Loomis, John; Collie, Sam; González-Cabán, Armando; Sánchez, José J.; Rideout, Douglas. 2019. Wildfire fuel reduction cost analysis: Statistical modeling and user model for fire specialists in California. In: González-Cabán, Armando; Sánchez, José J., tech. eds. Proceedings of the fifth international symposium on fire economics, planning, and policy: ecosystem services and wildfires. Gen. Tech. Rep. PSW-GTR-261 (English). Albany, CA: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacific Southwest Research Station: 85-95.