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Wildland Fires within Municipal Jurisdictions

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Each year, wildland fires threaten structures and occupants of the wildland‐urban interface (WUI). Currently, wildfire ignition estimates largely exclude ignitions originating within municipal jurisdictions, which contain the majority of the US population. The objective of this article is to provide national estimates and trends of the WUI fire problem; in particular, we analyze the US Fire Administration's National Fire Incident Reporting System fire incident data from 2002 to 2006 reported by local municipal fire departments across the United States. We estimate that, on average, the burning of wildland fuels is associated with 116,971 fires annually. Each year, these fires are responsible for, on average, 15 civilian (nonfire service) fatalities, 88 civilian injuries, and $160 million in direct property losses. These damages include losses to 599 residential structures, 649 nonresidential structures, and 829 vehicles (per year). Based on the value of a statistical life ($8.75 million) and statistical injury ($189 thousand), we find that the economic value of fatalities and injuries averaged $148 million annually. Thus, the losses associated with fires occurring on municipal lands total on average $308 million annually over this time period.

Keywords: wildfire; wildland; wildland‐urban interface

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: January 1, 2012

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  • The Journal of Forestry is the most widely circulated scholarly forestry journal in the world. In print since 1902, the Journal has received several national awards for excellence. The mission of the Journal of Forestry is to advance the profession of forestry by keeping forest management professionals informed about significant developments and ideas in the many facets of forestry: economics, education and communication, entomology and pathology, fire, forest ecology, geospatial technologies, history, international forestry, measurements, policy, recreation, silviculture, social sciences, soils and hydrology, urban and community forestry, utilization and engineering, and wildlife management. The Journal is published bimonthly: January, March, May, July, September, and November.

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