In 2016, the USDA Forest Service, the largest wildfire management organization in the world, initiated the risk management assistance (RMA) program to improve the quality of strategic decision-making on its largest and most complex wildfire events. RMA was designed to facilitate a more formal risk management process, including the use of the best available science and emerging research tools, evaluation of alternative strategies, consideration of the likelihood of achieving objectives, and analysis of tradeoffs across a diverse range of incident objectives. RMA engaged personnel from a range of disciplines within the wildfire management system to co-produce actionable science that met the needs of the highly complex incident decision-making environment while aiming to align with best practices in risk assessment, structured decision-making, and technology transfer. Over the four years that RMA has been in practice, the content, structure, and method of information delivery have evolved. Furthermore, the RMA program’s application domain has expanded from merely large incident support to incorporate pre-event assessment and training, post-fire review, organizational change, and system improvement. In this article, we describe the history of the RMA program to date, provide some details and references to the tools delivered, and provide several illustrative examples of RMA in action. We conclude with a discussion of past and ongoing program adaptations and of how this can inform ongoing change efforts and offer thoughts on future directions.
Calkin, David E.; O’Connor, Christopher D.; Thompson, Matthew P.; Stratton, Richard. 2021. Strategic wildfire response decision support and the risk management assistance program. Forests. 12(10): 1407. https://doi.org/10.3390/f12101407.