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Matt P. Plucinski
Abstract: The performance of wildfire suppression is often monitored using statistics related to area burned and time to contain a fire. Potential factors affecting the probability of initial attack (IA) success and the probability of large fires were examined in a data set composed of 334 Australian wildfires that burned in forest and shrubland vegetation and used aerial- and tanker-based suppression during the IA phase. Logistic regression analysis was used to determine the most significant predictor variables for a range of area- and time-based definitions for these measures. The variables that were found to be the best predictors of IA success were fire area at IA, fuel hazard, and aircraft response time. The probability of large fires was related to fuel hazard, area at IA, and the Forest Fire Danger Index. Fire area at IA was strongly linked with aerial suppression time delay and was also influenced by weather and fuel hazard score. Fire management practices can influence IA area, response timing, and fuel hazard. IA area and response times can be minimized through efficient fire detection and by deploying appropriate suppression resources rapidly from bases in locations that provide optimized geographical coverage. Fuel hazard can be moderated through management actions such as fuel reduction burning. FOR. SCI. 58(4):390 –398. Keywords: wildfire suppression, initial attack, wildfire response, wildfire containment, aerial suppression
IRE MANAGEMENT operations aim to reduce the adverse effects of fires on people, property, and the environment. Suppression strategies have tended to focus on rapid initial attack (IA) of fires to minimize the duration and area burned by wildfires. Fires that are accessed quickly have smaller perimeters and are of a lower intensity when suppression commences than fires that are accessed later and are more likely to be contained to smaller areas and in shorter time frames (e.g., Parks 1964, McCarthy and Tolhurst 1998, McCarthy 2003, Hirsch et al. 2004, Arienti et al. 2006, Plucinski et al. 2007). Traditionally, suppression of Australian wildfires has been conducted by ground suppression resources such as tankers, crews with hand tools, and earth-moving machinery. Aircraft have become increasingly available for wildfire suppression over the last decade. Firefighting aircraft are well suited to IA because of their ability to travel quickly and to attack fires that are difficult or dangerous to access from the ground. In this role they assist ground suppression resources by reducing fire growth and intensity. The effectiveness of wildfire containment operations can be gauged using statistics related to the proportion of fires that have desirable or undesirable outcomes. These statistics may relate to damage caused by fires, which can be expressed by figures such as house and infrastructure losses, estimates of threatened assets saved or proportions of fires contained within defined area or time limits. Although sta-
tistics related to asset destruction and damage can provide an indication of costs associated with a fire, it can be difficult to use these to make comparisons between fires because of their geographical variation. The number of threatened assets saved by suppression is not routinely estimated in most parts of Australia, and a range of methodologies may be used to estimate such figures. Concise definitions of outcome statistics on area burned and the time taken to contain fires are able to be used for comparisons of multiple fires. These fire outcome statistics are often used as performance measures and featured in reports of seasonal suppression operations. In the present study, area burned and containment time statistics are used to explore factors that influence IA success, the occurrence of large fires, and response success. The success of IA has traditionally been used as one of the main measures of fire management agencies achieving their goals (Wotton et al. 2010). A range of IA success definitions have been used by fire agencies and suppression studies. These are normally based on final fire area or time to containment. A range of cutoff thresholds are used to define success because spatial differences in land use and the fire environment result in a range of acceptable impacts of the undesirable effects of wildfires. Wildfires are most undesirable in areas in which there is the greatest risk of social, economic, and environmental damage. These highrisk areas tend to have more suppression resources than
Manuscript received August 10, 2010; accepted July 6, 2011; published online February 2, 2012; http://dx.doi.org/10.5849/forsci.10-096. Matt P. Plucinski, CSIRO Ecosystem Sciences and CSIRO Climate Adaption Flagship, Bushfire Cooperative Research Centre, GPO Box 1700, Canberra, ACT 2601, Australia—Phone: 61-2-62464242; Fax: 61-2-62464000; email@example.com. Acknowledgments: This project was funded by the Bushfire Cooperative Research Centre. Many operations personnel from Australian wildfire response and land management agencies generously provided data from their fires and openly discussed operational procedures and decision-making processes. Greg McCarthy (University of Melbourne), Jennifer Hollis (Western Australian Department of Environment and Conservation), and Jim Gould (CSIRO) assisted with data collection, collation, and project management. Wendy Anderson, Stuart Matthews, Chris Beadle, and Miguel Cruz made helpful comments on draft versions of the manuscript. Comments from the anonymous reviewers have significantly improved the article. Copyright © 2012 by the Society of American Foresters.
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lower-risk areas and can therefore be expected have a better IA performance. Thresholds defining IA success do not need to be as stringent in areas in which the impacts of wildfires are not as severe. IA performance is also affected by local environmental conditions, such as vegetation, terrain, weather, and access to water, which influence fire behavior and suppression effectiveness. Some Australian land and fire management agencies have defined IA success for forested conservation areas and areas near population centers as fire containment within 5 ha (e.g., Department of Sustainability and Environment 2003, Department of Environment and Climate Change 2008, Department of Environment and Conservation 2008, ACT Government 2009). Larger threshold areas, e.g., 20 ha in Western Australia (Department of Environment and Conservation 2008), are used in areas with lower population densities or conservation values. Some Canadian studies (e.g., Cumming 2001, 2005, Arienti et al. 2006) have used 3 ha in boreal forests. The proportional increase in area burned between IA and containment has also been used as an IA success measure. McCarthy (2003) and McCarthy and Tolhurst (1998) considered fires that grew more than three times the IA area to be containment failures. Area burned is not always suitable as a measure of suppression success. Direct attack is not always used during IA, and control lines are sometimes constructed at a distance from the fire perimeter, resulting in a large final fire area. Indirect attack is often a preferred and less costly option in areas with limited ground access to the fire edge or when fire intensity is beyond that suitable for safe direct attack. In these cases, the final fire area reflects the location of fallback lines and is not a good indicator of suppression effectiveness, and the time taken to contain a fire is a more appropriate measure. This can be defined as the duration between detection or the start of IA and containment. McCarthy (2003), McCarthy and Tolhurst (1998), and Plucinski et al. (2007) have used a threshold of 8 hours from IA. Another time-based method of defining IA success uses a fixed point in time. This method has been used in Canada with the specific definition of containment by 10:00 am (Quintilio and Anderson 1976) or noon (Ontario Government 2004) on the day after detection. The incidence of large fires can indicate the efficiency of fire management in an area (Cheney 1976). Fires that are large in area present the greatest risk of damage and are the most costly to suppress. These are undesirable, and their frequency in a region can be used as a comparative measure of seasonal severity. A range of final fire area thresholds have been used to distinguish large fires. These include 40 ha (Podur and Martell 2009, National Interagency Fire Centre 2011), 100 ha (Podur and Martell 2007, Bermudez et al. 2009), 200 ha (Cumming 2001), and 1,000 ha (Bradstock et al. 2009). The adequacy of response to a fire can also be measured in terms of IA fire area and time elapsed between detection and IA. IA fire area reflects the effectiveness of detection and response and environmental conditions. Arienti et al. (2006) used a 3-ha IA area definition to discriminate response successes and failures. Response time is the sum of the delay time between
detection and deployment of resources and the time taken for a given resource to travel to a fire. Fire agencies often set times for resources to depart base after notification of a fire based on weather conditions. Travel time is highly dependant on the distances between bases and fires and the speed at which resources travel. A number of studies have focused on optimizing the placement of resources to minimize travel times to fires (e.g., Islam and Martell 1998, Greulich 2003, 2008, Islam et al. 2009, Provost et al. 2009). The objectives of this article are to determine the most influential predictor variables for simple time and areabased definitions of IA success using a data set of Australian wildfires that occurred in forest- and shrub-dominated vegetation types and involved aerial suppression. The article also seeks to determine predictors for large fire occurrence defined using final fire area and response success defined using the area of fire at IA.
Methods Source Data
Fire incident data were collected from 334 wildfires that burned in forest- or shrubland-dominated vegetation and occurred between November 2004 and February 2008 fire seasons in populated regions of southern Australia. These regions included all of Victoria, Tasmania, and the Australian Capital Territory, eastern New South Wales, southwest Western Australia, and the southeast corners of South Australia and Queensland. For all fires analyzed in this study, aircraft were used to drop suppressants or retardants during the early stages of IA and involved tanker-based ground suppression. Fires that involved aerial suppression were targeted because they tend to be the highest priority and have better records for cross-checking data. The fires that involve aerial suppression are likely to be more difficult to contain on average than those that do not involve aerial suppression and will therefore have lower probabilities of IA success and higher probabilities of being large or burning for a long time than those burning in milder conditions. Fires that occurred in grasslands were not considered for this study because of differences in fire behavior and suppression tactics (Luke and McArthur 1978, Cheney and Sullivan 2008). Fires that involved the transport of ground crews by aircraft were excluded from the analysis because these fires tended to occur in remote locations where ground suppression was mainly limited to crews with hand tools, and suppression tactics were therefore different. Fire incident data had to be collected for this study because there were no existing databases containing fire response variables. The data were collected from fire management personnel from the majority of Australian land management and wildfire response agencies who had performed roles such as incident controller, operations officer, divisional commander, and air attack supervisor. The data were collected using survey forms designed to cover a range of readily obtainable fire-related statistics as listed in Table 1 and described below. Forms were distributed before fire seasons and soon after incidents. The information obtained was verified using follow-up interviews and checking official agency records. The fires included in this study were
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Table 1. List of symbols and abbreviations used for variables in the data set. Variable ta tg tic FFDI T H U SFHS NSFHS EFHS BFHS OFHS S Ai Af UI V Description Time delay between detection and first aerial suppression work (hours) Time delay between detection and first ground suppression work (hours) Time period (hours) between first suppression work and containment Maximum Forest Fire Danger Index Maximum air temperature (°C) Minimum relative humidity (%) Maximum wind speed (km h 1) Surface fuel hazard score Near-surface fuel hazard score Elevated fuel hazard score Bark fuel hazard score Overall fuel hazard score Slope incline class: 0 flat (0°), 1 low ( 5°), 2 moderate (5–15°), 3 steep ( 15°) Fire area at initial attack (ha) Final fire area (ha) Urban interface category: 1 fires ignited within 1 km of built areas, 0 fires ignited outside of built areas Presence of shrub-dominated vegetation at IA: 1 present, 0 absent
those for which a survey questionnaire was returned, which is a subset of all the fires that occurred during the period.
The variables available to this data set were limited to those that could be obtained from data providers or secondary sources (e.g., weather data from the Bureau of Meteorology) (Table 1). Some independent variables, including fire area at IA and fuel hazard scores, rely on the judgment of those providing the data. The use of expert judgments in wildfire operations studies can be subject to an immeasurable amount of bias affecting data accuracy and reliability (Simard et al. 1973, Hirsch and Martell 1996). Wildfire operations studies have often had to rely on data that are potentially subjective because this is usually the only means of obtaining information on specific variables or from a sufficient quantity of fires (e.g., Hirsch and Martell 1996, Hirsch et al. 1998, 2004, McCarthy and Tolhurst 1998, McCarthy 2003, Plucinski et al. 2007). Here subjective estimates were used for variables such as fire area at IA and fuel hazard scores. Timing data for each fire included the times of detection, IA, and fire containment. These were used to calculate response time period variables and containment time measures. The response time variables were the time periods between detection and first aircraft suppression work (ta) and first ground suppression work (tg). The containment time measure used was the period between IA and containment (tic). Here the time of containment is defined as the time when fire growth stopped. This may have preceded the completion of a control line around the full perimeter and other suppression tasks such as mop-up and patrol. The weather data collected for each fire included maximum Forest Fire Danger Index (FFDI) (McArthur 1967), 392
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maximum air temperature (T), maximum hourly average wind speed at 10 m in an open area (U), and minimum relative humidity (H) between detection and containment or for the first 24 hours for fires that burned for longer than 24 hours from detection. FFDI, like other fire danger rating systems, is based on the principal that fire danger is determined by wind speed, fuel moisture content, and fuel availability (Matthews 2009) and is calculated from temperature, relative humidity, wind speed, and a drought factor based on the Keetch-Byram Drought Index (Keetch and Byram 1968). The use of weather variables that represent the peak fire danger conditions experienced during IA may not give the best representation of average conditions experienced during IA; however, information at peak fire danger conditions was available for all fires and reflects the nature of forecasts used by fire suppression agencies. Weather data were obtained from the most representative Bureau of Meteorology weather station. Manual weather measurements taken close to the fire ground were used for six fires for which they were available. Visual fuel hazard ratings (McCarthy et al. 1999, Gould et al. 2007a, Hines et al. 2010) were used to describe fuel characteristics. Fuel hazard guides are used operationally to describe fuels in nongrassland parts of Australia. The fuel hazard rating method allows for quick descriptions of fuel layers based on the continuity, depth, height, and portion of dead fuel and are not specific to vegetation type. Fuel hazard ratings were recorded for the four fuel layers: surface (litter), near-surface fuel (suspended low fuel), elevated fuel (shrubs), and bark fuels. Overall fuel hazard rating was determined using the method of McCarthy et al. (1999). Fuel hazard ratings were estimated in the field by attending firefighters and are provided as an average across the area burned before containment. Ordinal values (1–5) were assigned for the five rating classes (low, moderate, high, very high, and extreme, respectively) for analysis. A binary categorical variable (V) was used to separate fires into two vegetation structure groups. Fires that burned in vegetation with a prominent shrub layer, incorporating vegetation types such as shrublands, heathlands, and scrub, as defined by Specht’s (1970) classification, as well as woodlands with a shrub-dominated understory, were assigned a value of 1. Fires that burned in mainly forest and woodland vegetation with substantial litter layers or grassy understories were given the value 0. The average slope incline (S) for the fire area at IA was placed into one of four classes: 0 level ground (0°); 1 low ( 5°); 2 moderate (5–15°); or 3 steep ( 15°). These were either estimated by the data provider or determined from a topographical map. Estimates of initial fire area (Ai) were obtained from the first arriving personnel. First arriving suppression crews provide an estimate of fire area in a situation report transmitted by radio to fire controllers when they first arrived at a fire. The details of this report are recorded in radio logs and official incident reports kept on file within the fire agencies. The accuracy of fire area estimates depends on the experience of those making them. The precision of the area estimates in this data set was limited, with most fires less than 10 ha rounded to the nearest hectare and many larger
fires rounded to the nearest 5 ha. Estimates of Ai were checked against figures for final fire area (Af), determined by fire agency mapping for official reporting, as well as the burning conditions and likely ignition time. Five fires with questionable initial fire area estimates were not included in the data set. The location of fires with respect to urban interface areas was categorized using the variable urban interface (UI). Fires that started within 1 km of a built area, including suburbs, towns, and industrial estates, were assigned a value of 1, whereas those that started outside of this area were given a value of 0. One kilometer was used for this definition because it could be applied to all fires in the data set with confidence, whereas larger distances could not. Information on the ignition source was gathered where possible. Ignition sources were grouped into four nominal categories: lightning, accidental, intentional, and unknown. The lightning category was used for fires for which lightning was determined to be the ignition source. No other natural ignition sources had been identified. The accidental category included anthropogenic ignitions when there was no intentional intent, whereas the intentional category was used for fires when the suspected cause was arson. Of the fires, 142 were ignited by lightning, 40 were accidental, 70 were intentional, and 82 were of unknown origin. In this study, it was assumed that an appropriate type and quantity of resources were sent to all fires because the number of resources deployed to fires was not available for the analysis. Comparisons of the number of resources deployed to fires could not have been readily made here because there were many different types of resources used, and arrival data are not routinely recorded. This analysis also assumes that suppression resources have been sent to the fires with the aim of containment. Although this is likely to be true in most cases, it is possible that resources are sent to fires with other motives, such as the protection of infrastructure.
1991), the fraction of correctly classified predictions (accuracy), and the Matthews correlation coefficient (MCC) (Baldi et al. 2000). For the two latter measures, the predicted probability of success of 0.5 was used as a cutoff. The MCC was used because it gives a more balanced measure of goodness of fit than accuracy when models have low sensitivity (fraction true positive prediction) or specificity (fraction true negative prediction) or when the class groups are of uneven size. An MCC of 1 indicates perfect prediction, whereas MCCs of 0 and 1 indicate random and inverse prediction, respectively. The area under the receiver operating characteristic curve was used to determine the discriminative ability of the model over a range of cutoff points (for details, see Hosmer and Lemeshow 2000). The influence of variables within models was compared using AIC, which is the increase in AIC when each term is removed from the model. The IA success definitions used for the analysis included two area-based definitions (Af 5 and 20 ha) and one time period definition (tic 8 hours). One large fire definition (Af 100) and one response success definition (Ai 1 ha) were also investigated. Operational versions of the models were also developed for each definition. The operational models were based on the stepwise models; however, the only weather variable used in these models was FFDI and the only fuel variable was overall fuel hazard score (OFHS). Both of these are summary variables that are determined using the other weather and fuel variables (McArthur 1967, McCarthy et al. 1999). FFDI is generally more available in weather forecasts than other variables and is used for other fire management activities. Modeled OFHS is available in some agency mapping, whereas other fuel variables are not.
The ranges of the variables in the data set are presented in Table 2. Fires with the slowest response times (ta, tg 8 hours) were those that were not attacked until the morning after detection. The fires that were the largest at IA were low-priority fires that occurred when many concurrent fires were burning in the same region. Of the 334 fires, 43 came from UI areas. Five fires that started outside of UI areas
Table 2. Range of variables in the data set. Mean SD Minimum Maximum 0.02 0.05 0.08 1.22 13 5 0 1 1 1 0 1 0.003 0.003 22.00 11.50 605.10 107.00 43 94 67 5 5 5 5 5 80 130,231
Logistic regression modeling was used to identify the variables that have the greatest influence on IA success, response success, and the occurrence of large fires. Logistic models were formulated using a forward stepwise method based on likelihood ratio tests (Lehmann 1986) and included testing for two-way interactions between selected variables. The inclusion of variables in the models was decided using the Akaike information criterion (AIC) (Sakamoto et al. 1986), with variables only added when they reduced the AIC by 1 or more. Logistic regression models were of the form ln p/ 1 p b0 b 1 f1 ... bn fn (1)
Variable Median ta tg tic FFDI T H U SFHS NSFHS EFHS BFHS OFHS Ai Af 1.00 0.67 4.50 23.24 30 26 17 3 3 3 2 3 2 9
where p is the probability of IA success, response success, or the occurrence of large fires, b0, b1, and bn are regression constants, and f1 and fn are predictor variables. All statistical tests and modeling were performed using the statistics program R version 2.11.1 (R Development Core Team 2010). The goodness of fit of the logistic models was compared using Nagelkerke’s pseudo R2 statistic (R2N) (Nagelkerke
1.81 2.99 1.19 1.63 26.31 66.20 26.41 18.48 29.54 5.98 31.03 17.91 20.07 15.45 2.66 0.91 2.55 0.91 2.78 0.93 2.40 1.07 2.95 0.88 5.24 9.41 1,485.3 9,332.7
Symbols are defined in Table 1. Forest Science 58(4) 2012
burned into them. Most (235) of the fires burned in forestdominated fuel types during IA. Fifty-five fires occurred in a flat location, 103 in locations with a low slope incline ( 5°), 86 in locations with a moderate slope incline (5–15°), and 90 in areas with a steep slope inclines ( 15°). The two main outcome variables (Af and tic) were correlated (r 0.459, P 0.001). The correlation was stronger (r 0.662, P 0.001) when the two largest fires (45% of total area burned) were removed; however, the correlation was weaker, although still significant, for fires less than 100 ha (r 0.281, P 0.001). A correlation matrix of input and output variables is presented in Table 3. Nearly half of the fires in the data set were attributed to lightning (Table 4). Lightning fires burned more than 80% of the cumulative area and required 70% of the total containment time. The two largest fires were ignited by lightning and burned a combined 45% of the total area burned by all fires. The three longest running fires were also ignited by lightning and made up 16% of the total containment time of all of the fires. These three fires occurred in the Blue Mountains region of New South Wales, which has a rugged landscape that limits ground accessibility and response time.
Fire outcome statistics based on ignition cause. No. fires 142 40 70 82 % fires 42.5 12.0 21.0 24.6 % total area burned 82.8 3.2 11.6 2.4 % total containment time 70.1 9.7 10.3 9.9
Ignition source Lightning Accidental Intentional Unknown
The proportion of fires at different Af, and tic thresholds in the data set are shown in Figure 1a and b. This figure also shows the majority of the cumulative area burned and the fact that containment time could be attributed to a relatively small number of fires. Of the 334 fires, 149 were contained to 5 ha or less. The stepwise model using this definition of IA success contained Ai and near-surface fuel hazard score (NSFHS) with no interaction (Table 5). Ai has a much higher AIC (159) than NSFHS (15) in this model. Substituting NSFHS with OFHS for an operational model increases the AIC by 10.7 and only slightly reduces the fit (from R2N 0.632 to R2N 0.608) (Table 5). Of the fires, 203 were contained to 20 ha or less. The stepwise model for this IA success definition contained Ai,
Table 3. Variable FFDI T H U SFHS NSFHS EFHS BFHS OFHS S UI V ta tg Ai Correlation between variables. Af 0.211c 0.159a 0.133 0.096 0.046 0.153a 0.130 0.128 0.122 0.117 0.055 0.063 0.030 0.043 0.256c tic 0.225c 0.068 0.203b 0.191b 0.167a 0.189b 0.200b 0.161a 0.276c 0.205c 0.072 0.067 0.415c 0.295 0.190b Ai 0.180a 0.136 0.117 0.108 0.078 0.028 0.143 0.014 0.127 0.053 0.026 0.046 0.251 0.027
OFHS, H, ta, surface fuel hazard score (SFHS), and U, with no interactions. Ai was also the most important variable in this model with a much higher AIC (101) than that for the other variables (3, 6, 7, 5, and 2, respectively). The replacement of either fuel variable with NSFHS did not considerably affect the model fit (from R2N 0.575 to R2N 0.569 and 0.563 for OFHS and SFHS, respectively) and only marginally increased the AIC by 2 when SFHS was replaced and 5 when OFHS was replaced. An operational model for this definition used FFDI in place of H and U and omitted SFHS. This resulted in the AIC increasing by 10 and a marginal decline in fit (from R2N 0.575 to R2N 0.542) (Table 5). Of the fires, 229 were contained within 8 hours of IA. A stepwise model applied to this definition included ta, H, NSFHS, Ai, S, bark fuel hazard score (BFHS), and U and had no significant interactions (Table 5). The most important variables in this model were ta and Ai ( AIC 38 and 13, respectively). AIC values for the other variables in this model ranged from 2 to 10. The operational model for this IA definition substituted OFHS in place of NSFHS and BFHS and FFDI in place of H and U. These changes caused the AIC to increase by 20.5 and reduced the fit (from R2N 0.489 to R2N 0.419) (Table 5).
There were 80 fires that burned more than 100 ha in the data set. These fires accounted for 99.34% of the total area burned (Figure 1a). A higher percentage of lightning-ignited fires became large fires (39%) than did those from other sources (27%). This is probably because lightning was the most common ignition source in locations where the terrain was more complex, and ground access was slower and because many of the lightning fires occurred simultaneously, and resources were limited. Lightning-ignited fires represent a small proportion of those that occur in interface areas where the suppression response is rapid. The stepwise model applied to the large fire definition (Af 100) included OFHS, Ai, FFDI, and SFHS with no interactions (Table 5). The AIC for these variables were 12, 19, 15, and 6, respectively. SFHS was removed from the stepwise model to make the operational model. This produced a small decline in fit (from R2N 0.467 to R2N 0.423) (Table 5).
The distribution of Ai in the data set can be seen in Figure 1c. This figure shows that fires that were larger at IA accounted for large portions of the total area burned and
Symbols are defined in Table 1. a, b, and c indicate correlations significant at the 0.05, 0.01, and 0.001 levels, respectively.
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small decline in the fit (R2N 0.180) (Table 5). The fits for these models were much lower than those for the IA and large fire models. Stepwise models that were fit to larger Ai thresholds were simple (generally only including ta) and had very poor fits (R2N 0.150).
This analysis has shown that the containment success of Australian wildfires is strongly related to the size of fires at IA, the arrival delay of aircraft, fuel hazard, and weather. Fire area at IA was the most important variable in the stepwise models predicting IA success and large fires here. It has also been linked with final area burned in previous studies (e.g., Hirsch et al. 1998, Arienti et al. 2006). This variable is used by fire controllers to determine whether more resources should be dispatched to a fire. The influence of IA fire area is illustrated in Figure 2a. The IA fire area was found to be largely influenced by response timing and to a lesser extent by weather and fuel variables. It is also likely that it would be affected by other factors related to detection, travel distance, and site accessibility that were not able to be tested here. Arienti et al. (2006) found initial fire area to be influenced by fire cause, season, fuel type, weather, and response time. The poor fits of the response models developed here probably reflect complexities in deployment protocols and limitations across the wide variety of fire environments that these data were sourced from. Wildfire response effectiveness using area- and time-based performance measures deserves further study at more precise scales. Fuel hazard score variables featured in all of the stepwise models developed here. Near-surface fuel hazard score featured in two of the three IA success models and could be substituted into the other model without reducing the fit. The near-surface fuel layer is an important fuel component in Australian eucalypt forests and is used in the recent fire spread model of Gould et al. (2007b). OFHS featured in the stepwise model for large fires and was used as the fuel variable in all operational models. Previous studies that have investigated fuel effects on fire outcome statistics have considered fuel and vegetation classifications based on species present (e.g., Arienti et al. 2006, Fried et al. 2006, Martell and Sun 2008) rather than fuel attributes, such as the fuel hazard scores investigated here. Fuel attributes, in the form of fuel mass and fuel hazard scores, are used in empirically derived Australian fire spread models (e.g., McArthur 1967, Gould et al. 2007b). Fuel hazard is an important predictor of the probabilities of IA success and large fires because it can be modified by management practices, such as fuel reduction burning. The influence of fuel hazard on IA success and large fire occurrence is illustrated in Figure 2. This figure shows that reducing overall fuel hazard from extreme to high levels will improve the probability of fire containment within 5 ha by up to 36% and decrease the probability of fires exceeding 100 ha by up to 55%. Fuel management through prescribed burning is an important risk reduction strategy used by Australian fire agencies. Fuel management programs need to be conducted over large areas to cover the potential
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Figure 1. Cumulative proportion of number of fires, area burned, and containment time with (a) final fire area, (b) containment time, and (c) IA area. Vertical lines correspond with the definitions used in the analysis.
total containment time. Of the fires in the data set, 198 had burned more than 1 ha at IA. A model predicting the probability of a fire being 1 ha at IA included ta, U, and elevated fuel hazard score (EFHS) (Table 5). The AICs for these variables were 13, 7, and 5, respectively. Substituting EFHS with OFHS only increases the AIC by 3 and reduces the R2N from 0.223 to 0.203, whereas substituting U with FFDI increases the AIC by 5 and reduces the R2N to 0.193. The operational model for Ai 1 ha included both of these substitutions and resulted in an AIC increase of 7 and a
Table 5. ROC).
Stepwise logistic regression models and operational models with fit statistics (AIC, R2N, prediction accuracy, MCC, and Model 3.88 0.93Ai 0.76NSFHS 3.38 0.88Ai 0.51OFHS 4.82 0.35Ai 0.49OFHS 0.03H 0.26ta 0.54SFHS 0.02U 5.44 0.34Ai 0.81OFHS 0.25ta 0.03FFDI 4.89 0.47ta 0.03H 0.36NSFHS 0.07Ai 0.53S 0.53BFHS 0.03U 5.22 0.40ta 0.46OFHS 0.07Ai 0.65S 0.03FFDI 8.66 1.05OFHS 0.14Ai 0.05FFDI 0.73SFHS 6.95 1.26OFHS 0.12Ai 0.04FFDI 2.26 0.55 ta 0.03U 0.50EFHS 2.02 0.56 ta 0.02FFDI 0.44OFHS AIC 251.9 262.6 277.0 286.7 289.0 309.5 155.1 161.3 219.6 226.4 R2N 0.632 0.608 0.575 0.542 0.489 0.419 0.467 0.423 0.223 0.180 Accuracy 0.843 0.803 0.818 0.803 0.806 0.768 0.768 0.782 0.695 0.641 MCC 0.694 0.620 0.611 0.579 0.558 0.451 0.450 0.447 0.357 0.239 ROC 0.910 0.902 0.892 0.876 0.868 0.836 0.863 0.852 0.764 0.735
Definition and type Af Af Af Af tic tic Af Af Ai Ai 5 ha stepwise 5 ha operational 20 ha stepwise 20 ha operational 8 h stepwise 8 h operational 100 ha stepwise 100 ha operational 1 ha stepwise 1 ha operational
Models are of the form given by Equation 1. Symbols are defined in Table 1. ROC, area under the receiver operating characteristic curve.
Figure 2. The influence of OFHS on (a) the probability of IA success (Af <5 ha) and (b) the probability of large fire occurrence (Af >100 ha) using the operational equations in Table 5. Ai is set at 2 ha for b.
ignition locations and minimize the area burned by wildfires. Weather variables were selected for all but one of the stepwise models presented here. Two IA stepwise models included both relative humidity and wind speed as variables, whereas the large fire model contained FFDI and the response model contained wind speed. FFDI, which combines the other weather variables, had the highest correla396
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tions with fire area and containment time (Table 3) of the weather variables. FFDI was used in the operational models because it was the most important of the weather variables and because it is used operationally to predict fire potential and suppression difficulty, to set resource response levels, and to determine public fire restrictions. Previous studies have also linked fire weather indices with area burned (e.g., McCarthy 2003, Arienti et al. 2006, Podur and Martell 2007, Bradstock et al. 2009). The influence of FFDI on the probability of large fires can be seen in Figure 2b. The time delay between detection and aerial suppression was the most important variable in the response model and was used in two of the stepwise models for IA. The time delay between detection and ground suppression was not included in any models. This variable (tg) was negatively correlated with the severity of fire weather conditions (e.g., FFDI, r 0.185, P 0.01), probably due to higher readiness levels set by agencies. This correlation may have masked the effect of ground response. Aerial suppression time delay was considerably more variable than ground suppression time delay in the data set (Table 2). Ground suppression resources arrived at fires before aircraft in most (63%) of the incidents because they are much more common, are deployed routinely to all fires on notification, and are spread across the landscape and thus are usually closer to fire locations than aircraft. However, their slower travel times often prevent them from accessing fires first when they are in distant or difficult-to-access locations. In these situations, aircraft can be used to reduce the response time and can reduce fire spread, so that fires are smaller and less intense when ground crews can get to them than they would have been otherwise. Management actions that make crews available for quick deployment will enhance IA success. Slope incline was only included in the time-based IA model (tic 8 h). This variable was correlated with ground suppression time delay (r 0.24, P 0.001), indicating that ground crews have more difficulty accessing and suppressing fires in steep areas. Fires on steep slopes are more likely to benefit from the use of aerial suppression than those that occur on flat terrain because of the difficulty accessing them from the ground. A number of variables that were not able to be investigated here have been found to influence wildfire outcomes
in previous studies. These include the number of resources deployed, fire load, and fire behavior. The number of resources has been linked to productivity in containment simulation studies (e.g., Fried and Fried 1996), whereas crew size has been found to influence productivity in an elicitation study (Hirsch et al. 2004). The number of resources available for IA firefighting is proportional to the number of wildfires occurring at a given time (fire load). Podur and Martell (2007) found fire load to be a significant predictor of the probability of large fires in Ontario. Fire behavior, in terms of intensity, has been linked to crew productivity during IA (Hirsch et al. 1998, 2004). Periods of moderate fire behavior have been found to be important during large fire containment (Finney et al. 2009). Containment and response performance statistics can be used to demonstrate the effectiveness of fire suppression programs and justify operations; however it is important that they are considered in the context of interseason variability in fire danger and ignition frequency. The prominence of performance statistics, such as frequency of IA success, diverts attention from the positive benefits of suppression actions, such as reducing fire impact on communities and infrastructure, which can occur at any fire. A variety of definitions for performance success measures need to be used for different locations because of the range of resource types and numbers and tolerances to wildfire impact. The most appropriate thresholds for performance measures, such as IA success, are also likely to depend on vegetation type and land use. Area-based thresholds of IA success are not appropriate for fires for which direct attack is not feasible, because large areas can be burned by backburning operations. Operational data sets can be used to develop models to assist fire management personnel with decisions related to resource deployment and planning. Operational data collected over long periods can be used to monitor trends in fire occurrence, suppression response, and fire impact (e.g., Cumming 2005, Martell and Sun 2008, Wotton et al. 2010). Operational data containing information on fire response, outcome, and the characteristics of influential factors, such as those used here, are not routinely collected by Australian wildfire suppression agencies. Such data could be used for more detailed analyses in investigating the causal factors of fire suppression outcomes and over the longer term the impact of policy and resourcing.
such as hazard reduction burning, can help increase the probability of IA success and lower the probability of large fires. Operational data sets, such as that used here, can be analyzed to monitor long-term trends in fire occurrence and suppression performance and can be used to develop operational tools and guidelines to aid operational decisions and strategies. Fire response data should be routinely collected and stored by fire suppression agencies.
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