Where to prescribe burn: The costs and benefits of prescribed burning close to houses

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Abstract

Prescribed burning is used in Australia as a tool to manage fire risk and protect assets. A key challenge is deciding how to arrange the burns to generate the highest benefits to society. Studies have shown that prescribed burning in the wildland-urban interface (WUI) can reduce the risk of house loss due to wildfires, but the costs and benefits of different arrangements for prescribed burning treatments have rarely been estimated. In this study, we use three different models to explore the costs and benefits of modifying the spatial arrangement of prescribed burns on public land, using the south-west of Western Australia as a case study. We simulate two hypothetical scenarios: landscape treatments and WUI treatments. We evaluate the long-term costs and benefits of each scenario and compare the results from the three models, highlighting the management implications of each model. Results indicate that intensifying prescribed burning treatments in public land in the WUI achieves a greater reduction in damages compared with applying the majority of the treatments in rural areas. However, prescribed burning in the WUI is significantly more expensive and, despite additional benefits gained from this strategy, in most cases it is not the most economically efficient strategy.

Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Journal of Wildland Fire
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 3 Jun 2019

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