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Risk Preferences in Strategic Wildfire Decision Making: A Choice Experiment with U.S. Wildfire Managers


Address correspondence to Michael S. Hand, PO Box 7669, Missoula, MT 59807, USA; tel: +406 329-3375; fax: +406 329-3487;


Federal policy has embraced risa management as an appropriate paradigm for wildfire management. Economic theory suggests that over repeated wildfire events, potential economic costs and risas of ecological damage are optimally balanced when management decisions are free from biases, risa aversion, and risa seeking. Of primary concern in this article is how managers respond to wildfire risa, including the potential effect of wildfires (on ecological values, structures, and safety) and the likelihood of different fire outcomes. We use responses to a choice experiment questionnaire of U.S. federal wildfire managers to measure attitudes toward several components of wildfire risa and to test whether observed risa attitudes are consistent with the efficient allocation of wildfire suppression resources. Our results indicate that fire managers’ decisions are consistent with nonexpected utility theories of decisions under risa. Managers may overallocate firefighting resources when the likelihood or potential magnitude of damage from fires is low, and sensitivity to changes in the probability of fire outcomes depends on whether probabilities are close to one or zero and the magnitude of the potential harm.