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Factors Influencing Modern Wildfire Occurrence in the Mark Twain National Forest, Missouri

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Understanding relative influences of ecological and anthropogenic factors on wildfire occurrence can assist decisionmakers in allocating fire management resources. We examined the influences of ecological and anthropogenic variables on probability of modern fire occurrence in the Mark Twain National Forest (MTNF), Missouri, using classification and regression tree (CART) and logistic regression analyses. Models were developed for five classes of fire size. Although CART distinguished some effects of fire size on results, logistic regression indicated a single model developed for all fires was sufficient for predictions. Ecological subsection was a dominating influence on fire occurrence for final CART and logistic models, highlighting the potential usefulness of ecosystem classification as a framework for considering factors influencing modern wildfires. Other influential predictors included ecosystem fire resistance; distance to roads, cities, and railroads; road density; mean October precipitation; elevation; median house value; and population density. Wildfires in the MTNF are caused overwhelmingly by arson, which, when combined with our results, suggests that arsonists may seek out flammable fuel types in remote areas with easy access. Within this general anthropogenic fire regime, we found a more subordinate effect of specific human variables (e.g., population density) on modern fire occurrence than did similar studies in the Upper Midwest, perhaps because our study area encompassed primarily federal forestlands with low population density.
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Keywords: classification and regression trees; fire probability; logistic regression; wildfire management; wildfire risk

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2007-05-01

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  • Each regional journal of applied forestry focuses on research, practice, and techniques targeted to foresters and allied professionals in specific regions of the United States and Canada. The Southern Journal of Applied Forestry covers an area from Virginia and Kentucky south to as far west as Oklahoma and east Texas.
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