Special Issue "Wildfire Management in Increasing Complex Socio-Ecological Environments: Needs and Challenges"

A special issue of Fire (ISSN 2571-6255).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (26 October 2021).

Special Issue Editors

Dr. Fantina Tedim
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Geography Department, Faculty of Arts and Humanities, University of Porto, Porto 4150‐564, Portugal
Interests: extreme wildfires; social dimensions of wildfires; resilience assessment and building; vulnerability asssessment and reduction; wildfire risk reduction; fire smart territories; wildfire causes; wildfire science–policy interface
Prof. Dr. Vittorio Leone
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Department of Crop Systems, Forestry and Environmental Sciences, Faculty of Agriculture (retired), University of Basilicata, Potenza 85100, Italy
Interests: wildfire causes; silviculture; preventive silviculture post fire management; fire smart territories
Prof. Dr. Carmen Vázquez-Varela
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Faculty of Humanities, University of Castilla-La Mancha, Cuenca 13001, Spain
Interests: social dimensions of wildfires; wildfire causes; rural development; social capital in relation to use and management issues in rural and natural areas

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

The escalating adverse wildfire effects across the world and the costs of suppression highlight that the current answers to the wildfire problem are clearly insufficient or inadequate.

In an increasingly complex fire environment (e.g., climate change, ecosystem degradation, expanding human development, forestry change, increasing fuel load, urban sprawl, landscape homogenization, rural depopulation), there is a broad consensus that traditional fire management practices, over-emphasising suppression, are leading to undesirable outcomes and are unsustainable, and therefore must be changed. Extreme wildfire events as in Southern Europe in 2017–2018, and in California, Brazil and Australia in 2019 emphasize the urgent need for this shift and ask for the contribution and collaboration of both science and policy to make this change possible.

On the other hand, the complex relationships between wildfire risk management and public policies are a frontier of knowledge to be explored. The recognition of the different stakeholders and the need to find the right scales of analysis and intervention offer a challenging field of analysis.

Scientific knowledge is an essential and integral part of wildfire management systems but it represents only one of many inputs to policy making and by itself is unable to make the above mentioned change happen, as science and policy operate in different domains with competing interests.

This Special Issue is looking for cross-cultural and multidisciplinairy contributions that shed light on the wildfire science–policy interface to facilitate the necessary changes in wildfire management leading to better outcomes, for both humans and the environment.

Dr. Fantina Tedim
Prof. Dr. Vittorio Leone
Prof. Dr. Carmen Vázquez-Varela
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Fire is an international peer-reviewed open access quarterly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1400 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • Wildfire management
  • Wildfire governance
  • Wildfire risk
  • Science–policy interface
  • Decision making
  • Extreme wildfires
  • Wildfires and public policies
  • Wildfires and spatial planning

Published Papers (9 papers)

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Research

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Article
Assessing Wildfire Exposure to Communities and Protected Areas in Portugal
Fire 2021, 4(4), 82; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/fire4040082 - 02 Nov 2021
Viewed by 450
Abstract
During the 2017 wildfire season in Portugal, unprecedented episodes burned 6% of the country’s area and underscored the need for a long-term comprehensive solution to mitigate future wildfire disasters. In this study, we built and calibrated a national-scale fire simulation system including the [...] Read more.
During the 2017 wildfire season in Portugal, unprecedented episodes burned 6% of the country’s area and underscored the need for a long-term comprehensive solution to mitigate future wildfire disasters. In this study, we built and calibrated a national-scale fire simulation system including the underlying fuels and weather data and used the system to quantify wildfire exposure to communities and natural areas. We simulated 10,000 fire season replicates under extreme weather to generate 1.6 million large wildfire perimeters and estimate annual burn probability and fire intensity at 100 m pixel resolution. These outputs were used to estimate wildfire exposure to buildings and natural areas. The results showed a fire exposure of 10,394 structures per year and that 30% of communities accounted for 82% of the total. The predicted burned area in natural sites was 18,257 ha yr−1, of which 9.8% was protected land where fuel management is not permitted. The main burn probability hotspots were in central and northern regions. We highlighted vital priorities to safeguard the most vulnerable communities and promote landscape management programs at the national level. The results can be useful to inform Portugal’s new national plan under implementation, where decision-making is based on a probabilistic methodology. The core strategies include protecting people and infrastructure and wildfire management. Finally, we discuss the next steps necessary to improve and operationalize the framework developed here. The wildfire simulation modeling approach presented in this study is extensible to other fire-prone Mediterranean regions where predicting catastrophic fires can help anticipate future disasters. Full article
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Article
Quantifying the Prevalence and Practice of Suppression Firing with Operational Data from Large Fires in Victoria, Australia
Fire 2021, 4(4), 63; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/fire4040063 - 27 Sep 2021
Viewed by 787
Abstract
Fire management agencies around the world use suppression firing for fire control. Yet, we know little about the extent of its use (e.g., prevalence and spatial coverage) and its impact on containment. We examine the prevalence and practice of suppression firing in Victoria, [...] Read more.
Fire management agencies around the world use suppression firing for fire control. Yet, we know little about the extent of its use (e.g., prevalence and spatial coverage) and its impact on containment. We examine the prevalence and practice of suppression firing in Victoria, Australia. We used operational data from five years (2010–2015) to identify and map the incidence of suppression firing on 74 large fires (500+ ha). Suppression firing occurred on half (34) of these fires, 26 of which had data to map firing locations. The area burnt by suppression firing ranged from <1 ha to ~20,000 ha on separate fires. Archetypal suppression firing occurred during intervals of low fire spread and resulted in modest fire behaviour. Ground crews generally conducted the perimeter suppression firing. Aerial ignition was more common on large internal firing operations. For the 26 fires where we mapped the firing locations, firing occurred along 77% of the perimeter-aligned road. Suppression firing was a prominent containment tool used along one-fifth of the total external perimeter of these 74 large fires. Quantification of this practice is a first step towards establishing ignition thresholds, production rates, and integration with containment probability models. Full article
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Article
How Vulnerable Are American States to Wildfires? A Livelihood Vulnerability Assessment
Fire 2021, 4(3), 54; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/fire4030054 - 27 Aug 2021
Viewed by 739
Abstract
Quantifying livelihood vulnerability to wildland fires in the United States is challenging because of the need to systematically integrate multidimensional variables into its analysis. We aim to measure wildfire threats amongst humans and their physical and social environment by developing a framework to [...] Read more.
Quantifying livelihood vulnerability to wildland fires in the United States is challenging because of the need to systematically integrate multidimensional variables into its analysis. We aim to measure wildfire threats amongst humans and their physical and social environment by developing a framework to calculate the livelihood vulnerability index (LVI) for the top 14 American states most recently exposed to wildfires. The LVI is computed by assessing each state’s contributing factors (exposure, sensitivity, and adaptive capacity) to wildfire events. These contributing factors are determined through a set of indicator variables that are categorized into corresponding groups to produce an LVI framework. The framework is validated by performing a principal component analysis (PCA), ensuring that each selected indicator variable corresponds to the correct contributing factor. Our results indicate that Arizona and New Mexico experience the greatest livelihood vulnerability. In contrast, California, Florida, and Texas experience the least livelihood vulnerability. While California has one of the highest exposures and sensitivity to wildfires, results indicate that it has a relatively high adaptive capacity, in comparison to the other states, suggesting it has measures in place to withstand these vulnerabilities. These results are critical to wildfire managers, government, policymakers, and research scientists for identifying and providing better resiliency and adaptation measures to support states that are most vulnerable to wildfires. Full article
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Article
Perceptions of NRCS Assistance with Prescribed Fires on U.S. Private Lands: A Regionally Stratified Case Study
Fire 2021, 4(3), 47; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/fire4030047 - 14 Aug 2021
Viewed by 523
Abstract
The benefits of prescribed fires are recognized throughout the United States, but the ability to assist with prescribed fire application on private land by government agencies has many possible constraints and challenges. The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), a federal agency, is mandated [...] Read more.
The benefits of prescribed fires are recognized throughout the United States, but the ability to assist with prescribed fire application on private land by government agencies has many possible constraints and challenges. The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), a federal agency, is mandated to assist private landowners with meeting land management objectives, but the ability of employees to utilize prescribed fire as a management tool is complex. We conducted a regionally stratified online survey of NRCS employees across the United States to determine the barriers inhibiting their ability to assist private landowners with prescribed fire application. In January of 2020, we recruited 101 NRCS rangeland and grazing land specialists to participate in the survey with 50 completing the survey (regional sample size: Central n = 14, Northeast n = 5, Southeast n = 12, West n = 19). A majority (82%) of respondents thought prescribed fires were staying the same or increasing in number. Regional differences in assistance types were significant for conducting burns and providing technical education, but not for other assistance types. Regional differences for perceived constraints were also significant for how the public understands the risks of prescribed fire and the ecological constraints but not for state policy, federal policy, liability, or public understanding of prescribed fire benefits. Overall and across regions, the NRCS survey participants perceived federal policies, liability, and private landowners’ lack knowledge of prescribed fire limits their ability to assist in the utilization of prescribed fire. Creating a national policy that allows a streamlined process for NRCS employees to assist with prescribed fire implementation and collaborative initiatives to improve private landowner knowledge gaps has the potential to improve prescribed fire application across the United States. Full article
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Article
Reframing Wildfire Simulations for Understanding Complex Human–Landscape Interactions in Cross-Cultural Contexts: A Case Study from Northern Australia
Fire 2021, 4(3), 46; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/fire4030046 - 13 Aug 2021
Viewed by 1122
Abstract
An increase in the frequency of severe fire events, as well as a growing interest in wildfire mitigation strategies, has created a demand for skilled managers of landscape fire and a better community understanding of fire behaviour. While on-ground experience is essential, there [...] Read more.
An increase in the frequency of severe fire events, as well as a growing interest in wildfire mitigation strategies, has created a demand for skilled managers of landscape fire and a better community understanding of fire behaviour. While on-ground experience is essential, there is potential to substantially enhance training and community engagement with explanatory simulations. Through this work, we explore landscape fire behaviour as a complex system where understanding key behaviour characteristics is often more important and achievable than prediction. It is argued that this approach has particular value in Northern Australia, where fires burn across vast and sparsely inhabited landscapes that are largely under Indigenous ownership. Land and fire management in such complex cross-cultural contexts requires combining traditional and local knowledge with science and technology to achieve the best outcomes. We describe the workings of the model, a stochastic cellular automata fire behaviour simulation, developed through a participatory modelling approach for Northern Australia; the outputs generated; and a range of operational applications. We found that simulation assisted training and engagement through the development of an understanding of fire dynamics through visualisation, underpinned by landscape data sets, and engaging a culturally diverse set of land managers in discussions of fire management. We conclude that there is scope for a broader use of explanatory fire simulations to support development of shared understandings of fire management objectives. Full article
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Article
Spatiotemporal Prescribed Fire Patterns in Washington State, USA
Fire 2021, 4(2), 19; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/fire4020019 - 23 Apr 2021
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1054
Abstract
We investigate the spatiotemporal patterns of prescribed fire and wildfire within Washington State, USA using records from the state’s Department of Natural Resources (DNR). Spatiotemporal comparisons of prescribed fire and wildfire area burned revealed that (1) fire activity broadly differed between the eastern [...] Read more.
We investigate the spatiotemporal patterns of prescribed fire and wildfire within Washington State, USA using records from the state’s Department of Natural Resources (DNR). Spatiotemporal comparisons of prescribed fire and wildfire area burned revealed that (1) fire activity broadly differed between the eastern and western portion of the state in terms of total area and distribution of burn sources, (2) over the 2004–2019 period, wildfire largely replaced prescribed fire as the predominant source of burning, and (3) wildfire and prescribed fire occur during distinct months of the year. Spatiotemporal variation in prescribed fire activity at regional levels were measured using five parameters: total area burned, total biomass burned, burn days, burn approval rates, and pile burn frequency. Within-region spatial variability in prescribed fire parameters across land ownership categories and bioclimatic categories were often detectable. Regression models of the annualized prescribed fire parameters suggested that prescribed fire activities have been declining in multiple administrative regions over the 2004–2019 period. A descriptive analysis of seasonal trends found that prescribed fire use largely peaked in the fall months, with minor peaks usually occurring in the spring. Lastly, we described how area burned, biomass burned, and pile burn frequency differed between prescribed fires approved and denied by the DNR, and found that approved prescribed fires were typically smaller and burned less biomass than denied fires. Full article
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Article
Socio-Ecological Perceptions of Wildfire Management and Effects in Greece
Fire 2021, 4(2), 18; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/fire4020018 - 02 Apr 2021
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 1280
Abstract
Adapting to the growing frequency of catastrophic wildfires in Greece and mitigating their effects is a complex socio-ecological problem. We used an online survey to query more than 100 engaged stakeholders who can potentially influence possible legislation and fire management organizational reform, emphasizing [...] Read more.
Adapting to the growing frequency of catastrophic wildfires in Greece and mitigating their effects is a complex socio-ecological problem. We used an online survey to query more than 100 engaged stakeholders who can potentially influence possible legislation and fire management organizational reform, emphasizing civil protection agencies and research entities. We focused the questionnaire on the importance of different wildfire effects to understand which were considered negative or unacceptable, indifferent, or positive. For fire prevention, we examined the range of acceptance and views on fuel management and fire use activities that are limited in extent or not allowed in Greece. We also examined the beliefs regarding ignition causes and responsibility, in addition to how different policies might reduce wildfire-related problems. The results revealed an emphasis on reforming wildfire management policies to deal with the way society and agencies function and interact, and mitigate the influence of climate change in wildfire frequency and behavior. In addition, respondents had a negative stance towards allowing wildfires to burn for resource objectives and a strong belief that arsonists are behind most ignitions. They also believe the lack of a national cadaster system is a major source of wildfire-related problems. The results indicate little support for fuel treatments, but increased acceptance for the legalization of fire use during firefighting (backfires). This study summarizes current wildfire perceptions in Greece and identifies opportunities and barriers to changes in wildfire governance to improve risk management programs and guide post-fire management and mitigation. Full article
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Review

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Review
Protective Decision-Making in Bushfire Part 1: A Rapid Systematic Review of the ‘Wait and See’ Literature
Fire 2021, 4(1), 4; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/fire4010004 - 01 Feb 2021
Cited by 6 | Viewed by 1281
Abstract
Delaying protective action decision making in wildfire is inconsistent with fire authorities’ advice and is associated with fatalities. A comprehensive understanding of why at-risk residents wait and see whether they will evacuate from a wildfire or remain to shelter or defend can better [...] Read more.
Delaying protective action decision making in wildfire is inconsistent with fire authorities’ advice and is associated with fatalities. A comprehensive understanding of why at-risk residents wait and see whether they will evacuate from a wildfire or remain to shelter or defend can better inform wildfire safety policy and practice. This systematic review reports the findings of 40 papers selected from 255 identified through a search of papers in Scopus, Science Direct and Google Scholar published between 1995 and December 2020 in English. This review establishes the extent of wait and see behaviour; grounds for concern for such behaviour; reasons protective action is delayed; the influence of information and warnings; relevance of gender and other characteristics; delay by those who defend their property; and policy implications. This review also details 11 seminal studies that capture much of the evidence on the delay of protective action in wildfire. Full article
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Other

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Concept Paper
Increasing Pace and Scale of Prescribed Fire via Catastrophe Funds for Liability Relief
Fire 2021, 4(4), 77; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/fire4040077 - 19 Oct 2021
Viewed by 327
Abstract
Increased prescribed burning is needed to provide a diversity of public benefits, including wildfire hazard reduction, improved forest resilience, and biodiversity conservation. Though rare, escaped burns or significant smoke impacts may result in harm to individuals and property. Liability for potential damages reduces [...] Read more.
Increased prescribed burning is needed to provide a diversity of public benefits, including wildfire hazard reduction, improved forest resilience, and biodiversity conservation. Though rare, escaped burns or significant smoke impacts may result in harm to individuals and property. Liability for potential damages reduces the willingness of fire managers to expand the practice, particularly where the wildland–urban interface creates the greatest risk. Across the United States of America, efforts have been made to reduce prescribed fire-related risks through statutory reform, training and certification requirements, and private insurance. An increasing number of states have adopted the liability standard of gross negligence to protect prescribed fire practitioners. When liability relief is tied to best practices or burn manager certification, risk to the public from potential prescribed fire impacts is reduced. Under this model, however, those harmed by prescribed fire may have little legal recourse for compensation from losses. Here, we explore the pairing of a mechanism to compensate losses while limiting liability for practitioners who use best management practices. Specifically, we assess the suitability of using a catastrophe fund in conjunction with adoption of gross negligence standards, modeled after other natural hazards examples. This model could ensure public support and sustain and expand prescribed fire in many fire-prone landscapes. Full article
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